JAZZ COMPOSERS ALLIANCE ORCHESTRA SHINES ON IN, THRU, AND OUT
“Some of the most exciting writing around for the big jazz band.” – Steven Loewy, All Music Guide
In, Thru, and Out (Cadence Jazz), the fourth release by the Jazz Composers Alliance Orchestra, showcases new work by JCA resident composers Laura Andel, David Harris, Darrell Katz, and Warren Sanders. Recorded live in concert in 2001, the album features inspired versions of six compositions. Each piece is written in the composer’s distinctive voice, but all of the music reflects a shared commitment to exploring the potential of composing for improvisers and expanding the jazz big band vocabulary.
This shared vision binds these works together, despite the extraordinarily wide stylistic range they cover. The title track, by trombonist-composer David Harris, integrates free improvisation, graphic scores, and conventional notation into a single piece. Harris’ other contribution “Testify,” offers a startling contrast-a hard swinging, Hammond B3-powered homage to the gospel music tradition. Laura Andel also offers two contrasting pieces. “El Tiempo” plays with the listener’s sense of time as a haunting melody floats over different tempos and is subjected to a variety of orchestrations. The buoyant “Caruaru” weaves together a bubbling Brazilian folk theme with original material that takes the folk elements in new directions. Darrell Katz’s four-part “Hemphill” is a reworking of a saxophone quartet piece that plays with jazz big band conventions as it pays tribute to the late saxophonist-composer Julius Hemphill. Katz incorporates rich melodic invention, call and response, the blues, and other jazz elements into an extended form that includes a setting of a poem by Paula Tatarunis. In “Bats,” Warren Senders sinuous melodies fuse jazz with an international blend of African, Indian, and Indonesian elements. Senders also contributes “The Metric Dozens,” an ingenious take off on boogie- piano conventions that generates unpredictable interactions between soloists, horn sections, and rhythm section.
The orchestra draws on some of Boston’s most accomplished improvisers, several of whom are bandleaders in their own right. Not only do they create a unified and distinctive orchestral sound, but their ranks include first rate soloists. Katz’s “Hemphill” showcases a number of the band’s stellar soloists, including trumpeters Mike Peipman and Keiichi Hashimoto, trombonist Bob Pilkington, saxophonist Jeff Hudgins, guitarist Norm Zocher, and drummer Harvey Wirht. Composer-trombonist Harris solos with revival meeting fervor on “Testify.” On Andel’s “Caruaru,” alto saxophonist Jim Hobbs digs into the propulsive groove in his compelling and fiery improvisation. Tenor saxophonist Phil Scarff shows his versatility with an angular unsettling solo on “In, Thru, and Out,” and a gently melodious outing that flows with the Indian rhythms of “Bats.” Pianist Art Bailey has fun with his rollicking boogie-woogie variations on “The Metric Dozens.”
Since 1985, the Jazz Composers Alliance has supported and promoted composition in the jazz idiom in several ways. Through its resident ensemble, the JCA Orchestra, they have premiered more than 100 new works by JCA composers-in-residence and guest composers, including commissioned works from Muhal Richard Abrams, Marty Ehrlich, and Wayne Horvitz. Through the Signature Concert Series, they also have presented works by Sam Rivers, Julius Hemphill, Henry Threadgill, Dave Holland, and Steve Lacy, among many others. In addition to a regular concert schedule, since 1993 the JCA has administered the Julius Hemphill Composition Awards, an international competition that recognizes innovative work for both small and large ensembles. In 2001, the JCA instituted the Composers in the Classroom program, sending resident jazz composers into Boston-area elementary schools to help students develop and apply skills in composition and improvisation.
In, Thru, and Out proves that after nearly 20 years, the Jazz Composers Alliance is still one of the premiere showcases for exciting new music for large jazz ensembles.