Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Brad Steinwehe Jazz Orchestra: Nutville

Sea Breeze Jazz
By Ric Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 3.6.08
Buy CD: Nutville

Brad Steinwehe, who plays trumpet and flugelhorn, is a graduate of San Diego State University. This is the first album released under his name, but he has been involved in several others with musicians from the San Diego area, and has served as lead trumpet in back-up bands for many name artists who've performed in that city. 

He also has toured throughout Europe; this album's band, formed in 2004, was invited to play at jazz festivals in Paris. 

Steinwehe appears to be something of a perfectionist. Nutville was recorded during a two-year period (2005 and '06) at San Diego State; either he felt he didn't have enough material that was ready for prime time in '05, or he wasn't able to interest a record producer at that date. 

The finished result features nine tunes, including one each by heavy hitters Miles Davis, Horace Silver (who contributed the title chart), Woody Shaw and Frank Mantooth. The orchestra uses a standard big band setup: five reeds, four trumpets/flugelhorns, four trombones and a rhythm section consisting of piano, bass, guitar and drums. 

Steinwehe used 27 different musicians in the two sessions. 

The key word for this group is "precision." Two factors are required to attain it: musicianship and rehearsal. Both are obvious here. Unfortunately, too much rehearsal can adversely affect the end result. This orchestra is so precise that, at times, it sounds sterile. The near perfection of both the ensemble and solo passages are too tight; if the group played more loosely, the result would swing more. 

That said, it's wonderful to hear another unit doing its best to keep big band jazz alive and well. More seasoning, and a little relaxation, should result in a great future for this group.

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