By Arrangement Only: Bob Mintzer, Chuck Bergeron, Carl Saunders & Doug Hamilton
The flip side of big band science, the counter dimension to swing, is arrangement. Once the seed of an idea has arrived, the melodies conceived, and the notes put into order, the music opens itself up to further organization. This is the art of the arranger. While not scientific, the observation that as the intensity of arrangement increases, the "swing" of the result decreases often does occur. The perfect balance is when the two dimensions coalesce into one finished piece of art.
An example of this is the Miles Davis Nonet's 1949 recording of Denzil Best's "Move." "Move" was arranged by John Lewis, who was later to become pianist of the long-lived Modern Jazz Quartet. It is a study in arranging for a medium sized band, transforming the hot be-bop of the composition's original intent into something less radioactive. Lewis effectively smooths out all of the bop rough spots, producing a pliable ensemble piece. The big band recordings dealt with here accomplish much the same thing. That is to say they transform composition, both original or standard, into something new.
Bob Mintzer Big Band
Saxophonist Bob Mintzer divides his time between the adult contemporary jazz group, the Yellowjackets, and his award winning big band. A Mintzer big band offering is something to anticipate because of the care Mintzer takes in his crafts of composition and arrangement. His most recent MCG Jazz recordings, Live at MCG with Kurt Elling(2004) and Old School: New Lessons (2006) both were well received and illustrate Mintzer's dedication to his big band craft.
Swing Out continues this trend with a recording heavy on Mintzer originals. Mintzer follows in the steps of American classical composers Aaron Copland, Charles Ives, and Virgil Thompson, who all spun American folk melodies into their work. In the jazz field, Oliver Nelson was particularly adept at this cultural incorporation. Mintzer effectively extends Nelson's language with the compositions "Each Day," Swangalang," and "Beyond the Limit." These pieces echo Nelson compositions like "Stolen Moments," "Yearnin,'" and "Hoe Down" from his masterpiece, Blues and the Abstract Truth (Impulse!, 1962). All of these pieces display elements of Americana in their thematic development and reconciliation.
Mintzer's writing also contains angular elements, particularly in his arrangements of standards. On Swing Out Mintzer addresses Arlen/Mercer's "My Shining Hour" and Churchill/Morey's "Someday My Prince will Come." Mintzer's treatment is both stylish and swinging. The icing on the cake is an abstract reading of the Elling/Mays/Metheny composition, "Minuano," sung by Elling himself. Elling and Mintzer have found soul mates in one another and their continued collaboration bears sweeter and sweeter fruit.
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South Florida Jazz Orchestra
South Florida Jazz Orchestra
The South Florida Jazz Orchestra is a 17-member big band and as such has a big sound. Led by bassist Chuck Bergeron, the orchestra debuts with this eponymous release on the big band oriented MAMA Records. SFJO's sound is characterized by its low brass and reeds with muted or brassy brass on top. The band has an understated Latin flavor to it, particularly on the standard "Nature Boy" (which features Kevin Mahogany in fine voice) and Ernesto Lecouna's "Siboney." But that is getting ahead of ourselves.
The disc opens with alto saxophonist/arranger Gary Lindsey's "Blues Gumbo," featuring fine solos by Mike Brignola on baritone saxophone, Steve Sigmund on trombone, and guest Arturo Sandoval on trumpet. Bergeron's "Role Model" follows, bottom heavy with Mike Brignola's bass clarinet and an extended solo by saxophonist Charles Pillow. Joe Zawinul's "Midnight Mood" channels Glenn Miller into the 21st Century as a floating ballad that features Alex Norris' trumpet and Gary Lindsey's trombone.
Oscar Levant's "Blame it on my Youth" is well served by Joe Williams protege Nicole Yarling on vocals and violin, and Dante Luciani on trombone. Leader Bergeron shines with his low brass and reeds on Mike Lewis' ..."Ant The Basses Are Loaded." Again, Brignola's bass clarinet is in conspicuous evidence. Tenor saxophonist Ed Calle guests on "This Can't Be Love" with vocalist Dana Paul to grand effect. South Florida Jazz Orchestra is a full-bodied, straight-down-the-middle big band offering that is not populated with the standard BB fare. It will appeal to the conservative and adventuresome in equal measures.
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The Carl Saunders Exploration
The Lost Bill Holman Charts