Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Dave Rivello Ensemble: Facing the Mirror

Allora Records
By Ric Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 12.10.09
Buy CD: Facing the Mirror

During the heyday of the big bands, all the leaders were famous, as were many of their featured sidemen; most were primary instrumentalists.

Although some of these individuals also composed and arranged tunes that were included in each band's “library,” most of the charts were done by big band arrangers; these folks often were unknown until their contributions became a key part of the band's “character.”

As the big bands faded away, the name musicians became fewer; the same was true of the arrangers. Dave Rivello is a member of the latter group: He's a composer, arranger and conductor. For almost a decade, he worked for — and with — the famous trombonist/composer/arranger, Bob Brookmeyer.

This album marks the debut of Rivello's own ensemble, and he's responsible for all the contents.

Financial constraints and changing tastes have made it difficult to maintain a true big band; you could call this 12-piece ensemble a “big band lite.” Rivello fields three woodwinds, include a soprano sax/flute, tenor sax/clarinet and regular/bass clarinet; three trumpets/flugelhorns; two trombones; a tuba; and a standard piano/bass/drums rhythm section.

Some of the musicians are experienced local pros; the rest are alumni or students from the Eastman School of Music, where Rivello is an assistant professor.

This is a very modern group, and it truly swings. All eight tracks are melodic, and a lot of attention is given to harmonic phrasing. The unit is based in Rochester, N.Y., and has played one night each week for years at a local venue, with frequent supplementary concerts at the Eastman School.

It's unlikely that this organization will ever tour or be heard live outside the East Coast, but we can look forward to future albums. Thank goodness!

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