Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Westchester Jazz Orchestra: Maiden Voyage Suite

WJO Records
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Maiden Voyage Suite

In 2003, an august group of musicians — many of whom lived in Westchester, a suburb just north of New York City — formed the Westchester Jazz Orchestra (WJO) to “promote jazz, contribute to its evolution and advance the appreciation and understanding of this uniquely American cultural treasure.”

WJO is a 16-member big band in the standard sense: four trumpets, four trombones, five reeds, piano, bass, drums and a director (Mike Holober, one of the group founders). This unit met periodically and constructed a “book” of original compositions and arrangements, rehearsed and performed at concerts held throughout the New York area.

WJO’s first album, All In, was released in 2007 to rave reviews; this, their second, is a re-imaging of the classic 1965 Herbie Hancock album of the same name.

Only a few of the members of WJO are well known outside the jazz community — probably pianist/composer/arranger Mike Holober, reedists Jay Brandford and Ralph LaLama, trumpeter Tony Kadleck and trombonist Pete McGuinness — but every artist is an upper-echelon musician.

As for this release, several accolades apply. Hancock, now in his 70s, was way ahead of his time; Maiden Voyage Suite is an exceptional piece of music. WJO is an outstanding unit, and the “re-imagining” by Holober and other group members is excellent. Best of all, the ensemble passages and solos are superb.

The suite opens with a moving prologue, progresses through seven passages and concludes with an epilogue. It all meshes neatly, whatever the tempo, and everything swings wonderfully.

This orchestra ranks with groups such as the GRP All Star and Bob Florence bands: the best we’ve had since those wonderful aggregations headed by Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Woody Herman and Maynard Ferguson.

Don’t miss this album; it’s a must.

1 comment:

  1. this looks fantastic. Have you listened to the orchestras led by Maria Schneider and David Rivello?