I get the message from this (and locally) that big band jazz is alive and well. A mix of originals by Benedict and trombonist McKee interspersed with compositions by Sting, Duke, Metheny, Zawinal, Coltrane and Michael Brecker.
The joy of big band jazz for me is not just the exciting soloists (of which there are plenty here) but that of hearing 5 saxes phrasing as one. They may be blowing Selmer. Yamaha, Conn, Buescher or whatever horns. The mouthpieces may be one of the many gobstoppers crafted by Link, Guardala, Dukoff, Lawton or what came with the instrument and, using a variety of reeds from the usual suspects, still manage to get that blend of 5 people speaking with unforked tongues. Brassmen too somehow seem to be able to blend as one - at least they do here !
That the bands of Ellington, Gillespie and early Basie rarely achieved this perfection was both their strengths and their weaknesses. The power of their soloists and arrangers more than made up for any loose ensemble work.
Here we get the best of both worlds! I'm not going to suggest that these guys are better than their illustrious predecessors - far from it but, and it's a big but (no lewd comments please!) they have absorbed, learned and developed their own style whilst, incorporating contemporary influences along the way - even Gonsalves never played a tenor solo like Ellwood does on Caravan!
Benedict takes the alto solos, Ellwood and Foerch the tenor spots, McKee puts in some expressive slidework on most whilst Voyemant solos on Brecker's Delta City Blues, Jarvis on Coltrane's Naima and Tallman on Benedict's Holmes are the featured trumpet soloists and Harris, Ascram and Romaine are also in there pitching,
There won't be many better big band records this year - next year either!
Available Tapestry Records.