Friday, June 23, 2017

Ken Schaphorst Big Band: How to Say Goodbye

JCA Recordings
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: How to Say Goodbye

Ken Schaphorst chairs the Jazz Studies Department at Boston’s New England Conservatory (NEC), a position he has held since 2001. He served as director of Jazz Studies at Wisconsin’s Lawrence University for almost 10 years prior to that; he received a doctorate of music arts in 1990, and is a teacher, composer and bandleader. 

Oh, yes; he also plays trumpet and Fender Rhodes on this release, his fourth big band album. It’s one of the finest full-scale jazz ensembles I’ve ever reviewed.

Schaphorst composed and arranged all 10 charts: homages that honor jazz visionaries Bob Brookmeyer and Herb Pomeroy, who were mentors, colleagues and fellow performers at NEC. This unit’s 19-piece ensemble features five trumpets/flugelhorns, five reeds, four trombones, and a rhythm section of piano, guitar, bass, drums and percussion. The album is sensational: It doesn't “scream” or excite, but it features some of the smoothest, most beautifully written charts ever produced.

Schaphorst has taught, mentored or worked with all the band members during his busy career. All possess years of experience, having played with a veritable Who’s Who in the jazz world; we're talking about associations that have lasted up to 30 years or more, in some cases.

Because these folks have worked together so much, the result is perfection during each chart’s ensemble sections. Further, the support provided during the solo passages enhances each featured artist; it's like the “solo” has been heard previously, and Schaphorst then wrote and arranged the ensemble passages to match. 

It bears repeating: This band may not roar, grab you by the throat, or leave you breathless, but Schaphorst and his fellow artists deliver thoughtful, beautiful jazz that you’ll visit again and again.

Do not miss this one!

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