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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

CD Review: The Ted Howe Jazz Orchestra – Pinnacle

(Review by Hugh)
Ted Howe is a Los Angeles based pianist, composer, arranger, producer and teacher.  Pinnacle is his seventh CD as leader.  The central core of the CD is Howe's Suite #1 for Jazz Orchestra.  Howe wrote the suite as his first piece of extended composition for this kind of ensemble.  The suite was premiered in 2011 at the Conant Arts Centre in Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, Georgia (Tate lived in Atlanta for many years).  The suite is presented in three movements of equal duration over a total of 18 minutes as tracks 3, 4 and 5.

Track 1, Presto for Two Trombones and Track 2, Impromptu for Trumpet nicely set the scene.  The orchestra has a lush sound and the first track features fine solos by Andy Martin and Francisco Torres.  John Patitucci also features on bass solo.  The trumpet solos on the second track are provided by Lester Walker in this sweet melodic number.
Suite #1 for Jazz Orchestra draws on the horizontal, linear approach commonly used in classical music.  Howe states that his compositions  “are not just about the music; they're also about the instruments, the varied combinations of sound they make, and how great musicians can rise to just about any challenge and take the music to new and exciting places”.
The suite has the big-band feel, with a laid-back West Coast groove, which is simultaneously pleasant on the ear and not too taxing on the brain.  It evokes for me what I used to think of in my childhood as “going over Golden Gate Bridge music” (remember Ironside?).  The suite as a whole has a definite filmic quality – listening to the suite one can imagine a series of scenes evoked by the music at that particular moment. 
The suite is followed by Adagio for Piano, featuring Ted Howe.  This retains the laid back groove with nice pianism by Howe, but no fireworks.  Jazz Etude for Three Clarinets features solos by Sam Skelton on E flat clarinet and John Patitucci on acoustic bass.

The CD as a whole then, does not challenge, but if you like this kind of thing (which I do) is a fine example of the oeuvre.  Pinnacle was released on March 3 on the Hot Shoe Worldwide label, catalogue number HSW 102.  It is available from hotshoerecords.com or cdbaby, but as far as I can see is not yet listed on either amazon.co.uk or amazon.com at the time of writing.
Hugh.
Ted Howe (piano); Geoff Hayden  (piano, Rhodes); John Patitucci (acoustic and electric bass); Marlon Patton (drums); Jose “Bam Bam” Ramirez (percussion); Don Baraszu (acoustic and electric guitar); Sam Skelton (flute, clarinets, soprano and alto sax); Don Erdman (clarinet, tenor sax); Seth Kuehn (baritone sax, bass clarinet); Mike Barry, Melvin Jones and Lester Walker (trumpet, flugelhorn); Wes Funderburk, Tom Gibson, Andy Martin and Francisco Torres (trombone).

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