Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Big Crazy Energy New York Band: Inspirations

Rosa Records
By Ric Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 6.30.10
Buy CD: Inspirations

For a guy who remains relatively unknown, Norwegian-born trombonist, composer and arranger Jens Wendelboe has been involved in a wide range of musical activities.

He studied composition at New York's Manhattan School of Music; toured with the rock band Blood, Sweat and Tears; scored the music for the soap opera Guiding Light; and, since 1984, has fronted his Big Crazy Energy New York Band.

And a big band it is, consisting of five reeds, four trumpets and four trombones — one of which doubles on euphonium — along with an electric bass, piano, drums and a vocalist. It's an exciting, swinging, beautifully orchestrated group.

Wendelboe composed four of these nine tracks; the rest are covers of tunes by Lennon and McCartney, Billy Cobham, Joe Henderson and Scott Lafaro, along with the traditional “Dear Old Stockholm.”

Wendelboe's arrangements often borrow motifs and riffs from well-known jazz artists. Miles Davis' trumpet solo from his version of “Dear Old Stockholm,” for example, is played by the entire reed section; Bill Evans' piano solo from his Live at the Village Vanguard album is orchestrated in “Gloria's Step.” It's an effective way to demonstrate how superbly these icons could improvise.

This is an excellent and very promising band, and I'm delighted to note that it's billed as volume 1; that suggests we have more to look forward to.

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