Big Sounds from Beantown: Darrell Katz and the Jazz Composers Alliance Orchestra
In, Thru and Out
Established in 1985, Boston's Jazz Composers Alliance Orchestra is an ever-evolving collective, one that continues to build on its reputation as a peerless conduit of modern big band compositions. While premiering specially commissioned works by Marty Ehrlich, Muhal Richard Abrams, and Wayne Horvitz, JCAO has also featured compositions by Dave Holland, Julius Hemphill, Tim Berne, Henry Threadgill, Steve Lacy, Sam Rivers, and other heavyweights.
In, Thru and Out is a live recording from 2001, and features six pieces by JCAO resident composers Laura Andel, Darrell Katz, David Harris (also here on trombone), and Warren Senders. Combining contemporary big band touchstones Kenton, Stravinsky, Gil Evans, Ellington's "Far East Suite" and sacred works to form a durable launch pad, the ensemble boldly expands the idiom's conventions, venturing into deeper, uncharted realms. Andel's "Caruaru" pays homage to her South American roots with its bubbly, Brazilian frevo-flavored intro, before being overtaken by ominously rising brass and rhythm. As its title might imply, Warren Senders' "The Metric Dozens" rolls out a boogie-woogie fuse, courtesy of Art Bailey's inspired piano; quickly shattering its traditional frame, the tune explodes into a heated duel between trombonists Harris and Bob Pilkington. Of Harris' two contributions, the disc's title piece is the more striking: pulling the listener through a colorful, shifting maze yet constantly reverting to a dramatic, horn-led march, "In, Thru and Out" is highlighted by Phil Scarff's scorching tenor solo. But it's Katz's four-part "Hemphill," an homage to the late saxophonist/ composer, that is the album's centerpiece: part one, "Texas," celebrates Hemphill's Lone Star origins with an infectious blues-funk chart and a stinging statement by guitarist Norm Zocher; part two, "Perfumed Globes," is inspired by the free playing of the subject's St. Louis and early New York years; "The Red Blues" features Rebecca Shrimpton, who sings lines from a poem by Katz's wife, Paula Tatarunis; and the final segment, "Red Blue," is a hard-swinging summation of Hemphill's talent for fusing jazz with European classical and African influences.
The Death of Simone Weil
With the support of JCAO, Katz and Shrimpton once again draw on Tatarunis' poetry for The Death of Simone Weil , a tribute to the enigmatic 20th Century French philosopher. An intellectual revolutionary, Weil is also remembered as a champion of human rights and as a woman with a demanding personality, one who died a victim of her own obstinacy when she refused extra food rations in an English hospital in 1941. Similarly, this six-part work, which took Katz three years to complete, is often demanding itself, as poetry set to music can sometimes be: one can easily picture Katz "going over every note again and again," as he tells it, while mapping these minutely laid-out, avant- classical charts. Shrimpton's icy contralto alternates with her recitations of the epic poem, sharing the landscape with monolithic marches that evoke the plight of downtrodden factory workers and of the occupying Nazi war machine, while frequent splashes of fluttering flutes depict the doomed visionary's flights of imagination. But, despite its shrewd arrangements, this music is still brimming with prime improvisation. The fourth movement, "Saint Julien," captures the confusion of a German air raid with a chaotic break of free ensemble blowing; Warren Senders' Tuvan-inspired throat singing and more great solos by Scarff are further delights. Also exceptional is "Renault," the suite's second part; boasting a tough, recurring gospel/blues motif, it laments the harsh existence of the people of a poor fishing village.
No, this is not a record to throw on for the relatives at Thanksgiving. But, for those who set aside the time to listen hard, The Death of Simone Weil is a rewarding portrait of a mysterious legacy.
In, Thru and Out :
Track Listing: 1- In, Thru and Out (D. Harris) 6:55 / 2- El Tiempo (L. Andel) 9:56 / Hemphill (D. Katz): 3- Texas (6:39); 4- Perfumed Globes (5:33); 5- The Red Blues (text by Paula Tatarunis) (7:51); 6- Red Blue (8:19) / 7- Bats (W. Senders) 8:57 /8- Caruaru (L. Andel) 6:09 / 9- The Metric Dozens (W. Senders) 8:19 / 10- Testify (D. Harris) 7:15
Personnel: flute: Hiro Honshuku; alto saxophones: Jim Hobbs, Jeff Hudgins; tenor saxophone: Phil Scarff; baritone saxophone: Hans Indigo; trumpets: Mike Peipman, Keiichi Hashimoto; French horn: Jim Mosher; trombones: Bob Pilkington, David Harris; tuba: Jim Gray; voice: Rebecca Shrimpton; piano: Art Bailey; guitar: Norm Zocher; bass: Rick McLaughlin; vibraphone: Rich Greenblatt; drums: Harvey Wirht; percussion: Taki Masuko
The Death of Simone Weil :
Track Listing: 1-Gone Now (D. Katz/P.Tatarunis) 7:50 / 2- Renault (D. Katz/P.Tatarunis) 12:42 / 3- November 1938 (D. Katz/P.Tatarunis) 12:12 / 4- Saint Julien (D. Katz/P.Tatarunis) 13:58 / 5- X-Ray Dreams (D. Katz/P.Tatarunis) 10:34 / 6- Almost Paradise (D. Katz/P.Tatarunis) 7:52 / Bonus track: 7- Like a Wind (D. Katz/Sherwood Anderson) 6:51
Personnel: flute: Hiro Honshuku; alto saxophones: Matt Steckler, Jeremy Udden; tenor saxophone: Phil Scarff; baritone saxophone: Hans Indigo; trumpets: Mike Peipman, Keiichi Hashimoto; French horn: Dirk Hillyer; trombones: Bob Pilkington, David Harris; tuba: Jim Gray; voice: Rebecca Shrimpton, Warren Senders, Al Tatarunis; piano: Art Bailey; guitar: Norm Zocher; bass: Rick McLaughlin; vibraphone: Rich Greenblatt; drums: Harvey Wirht; percussion: Taki Masuko