IT’S A GRAND NIGHT FOR SWINGING hits WBGU’s CMJ Jazz Top 20,
March 12, 2012
Under the Auspices of the Greater Middletown Concert Association
FBBJ looks at (listens to) “Grand Night…”
First some decoding. The words “jazz ensemble” here mean big band. As in five saxes, four trumpets, four trombones, piano, bass, drums, 3 guest soloists and one announcer. The disk is titled It’s A Grand Night for Swinging. Details can be found at http://www.neje.org The three guests are Ali Ryerson on flute, vocalist Giacomo Gates and guitarist John Abercrombie.
First kudos should go to the announcer, a certain Ed Bride from the Berkshires in Massachusetts. Ed gives you the needed details about all the tunes – song title, composer, arranger, names of the soloists, Greenwich Mean Time and the barometric pressure. Why have an announcer? Because the entire disk was done live in performance. And it was not cherry picked from the best takes done over a week’s residence at a club. All the music comes from one concert.
And this is what strikes me most about this release. The performance by the ensemble, the big band is very together, tight, solid, swinging, at a very high level. If you listen closely, you can’t fake this. Either the band has its act together or it doesn’t. The NEJE is definitely cookin’ on high heat here.
Another plus is that all the arrangements come from band members, namely trumpet player Jeff Holmes, alto saxophonist John Mastroianni and pianist Walt Gwardyk. When most or all the arrangements come from the band members, it bodes well for more CDs from that band. It usually means there is a deep well of ideas for more fresh arrangements to draw from.
I believe Jeff Holmes is playing the lead trumpet chair. It sounds to me like he is doing a very good job, but I will leave the judgement on that to others who are more qualified than I am.
I should note that this is NOT the first recording by the NEJE. There are several others, which can be found on their web site.
Based on the charts and the ensemble alone, this is one of the better regional big bands. Check it out.
*News Update 10/06/2011*
Listen to Walt Gwardyak talk to Mark Channon about the NEJE and the celebration of 20 years of fabulous entertainment!
New England Jazz Ensemble
The New England Jazz Ensemble is a large jazz orchestra comprising regionally based artists. The group features original and contemporary jazz arrangements and compositions. Much of the band’s material is generated by the ensemble’s members. It is a performance group as well as a composer’s forum.
The Goals of the New England Jazz Ensemble
* To perpetuate the uniquely American large jazz ensemble as an art medium
* To encourage the writing of new work for large jazz ensemble
* To reach culturally diverse audiences and to educate the public about jazz
* To share the band’s wealth of expertise with the public in the form of concerts,
educational forums and programs, guest performances and recordings
* To support the opportunities for professional jazz artists to be employed
in their specific areas of expertise in order to maintain the integrity of
the jazz community in our region.
Board of Directors
Robert Balchunas, President
Claudia Bell, Vice President
Lori McKinney, Secretary
Jeffrey W. Holmes
Ann Mastroianni, Treasurer