Monday, June 8, 2015

Mitch Shiner and the Blooming Tones Big Band: Fly

Patois Records
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Fly

I love jazz for many reasons, particularly the wonderful way it evolves with time. New artists arrive on the stage, many superior to those who preceded them. Styles morph, often related to geography — Dixieland, ragtime, etc. — cultural or ethnic background, or even technical advances in instruments. But the major factor often is the thought processes of the musicians themselves, and the composers and arrangers who create the music.

Early “advanced thinkers” included Boyd Raeburn, Ed Finckel and George Handy: artists relatively unknown to the general public, but nonetheless considered masters by many name band leaders. Raeburn’s unit never was commercially successful, although he resurrected it many times, but his arrangements were used by stalwarts such as Stan Kenton and many other. Needless to say, Duke Ellington loved Raeburn.

I regard Mitch Shiner and his Blooming Tones Big Band as today’s equivalent of Raeburn. Shiner’s group is brilliant, powerful and among the best I’ve heard in years.

Shiner plays drums and vibes, and composes and arranges. He also teaches; he graduated from the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, and is an active band/group leader in the Bloomington and Indianapolis areas. Most impressive is the fact that the Blooming Tones Big Band is composed entirely of students. The album’s 10 tracks feature (not all at once) five woodwinds, five trombones, five trumpets and flugelhorns, a tuba, two French horns, a guitar, three upright or electric basses, a pianist, two vibraphones, three drummers, four percussionists and two vocalists. (Whew!)

This isn’t like any college group I’ve ever heard. It’s the equivalent of today’s top professional bands in all respects; the phrasing, power, accuracy, tone and solos are all exceptional. Eight of the 10 songs are originals, and two are standards (“When You Wish Upon a Star” and “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head”). All the arrangements are stunning, and goodness, but these folks swing.

Do not miss this album!   

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