Saturday, October 26, 2013

Michael Treni Big Band: Pop Culture Blues

Bell Production Company
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Pop Culture Blues

If it weren’t for the blues, jazz would be a lot less interesting; jazz artists love that genre, and so do most fans. That being said, you should genuinely enjoy this album: 10 tracks of blues you’ve never heard before, performed by a truly big (20 musicians), swinging band.

Leader Michael Treni is one of the four (!) trombonists, and is the composer and arranger for the “Pop Culture Blues Suite” that is featured in the album. Although Treni played with other bands during his early years, he’s far better known today as a composer, arranger, teacher and — for awhile — businessman and inventor of audio systems. Wherever he teaches, he creates combos and ensembles using students, faculty or friends; the big band featured here is one such unit. 

The blues come in various formats; the compositions on this disc involve the 12-bar version, with variations. Several of these tunes are stylized, in recognition of famous name artists. “One for Duke,” for example, is a 12-bar atonal. (Try to figure out the “keys” that are used; they were Ellington favorites. “BQE Blues,” inspired by Count Basie’s bands, uses a 16-bar format (the basic 12 bars, with a 4-bar “extension.” 

More than 12 Blues”  — inspired by Gerry Mulligan and the “cool school” — uses multiple 12-bar segments with an 8-bar “bridge” as separation; “Minor Blues,” related to Charles Mingus, is done in a minor key, with dominant substitutions and chord extensions. 

The rest of the suite movements evolve in a similar manner: “Blues in Triplicate” is done in ¾ time; a 14-bar form is used in “Summer Blues”;Smokin’ Blues” uses a 16-bar format, and so on. The album liner notes contain a more detailed description for each composition, granting an educational background for listeners who like what they hear, and also would like to understand it better.

So ... you’ll not only enjoy the music here, you’ll end up a lot smarter!

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