Thursday, June 22, 2017

Tim Davis Big Band: The Expensive Train Set

The world is full of terrific jazz drummers, but few are also great composers, arrangers, orchestrators and leaders. Tim Davies fits that bill, and he’s also a Grammy Award winner. The Australian-born artist formed his first band in Melbourne in 1998, and moved to the United States shortly thereafter. From 2000 onward, his big bands have been stationed in Los Angeles, where he released two album. 

Why only two? He’s too busy composing, arranging and conducting for other bands, orchestras, films and even video games.

This release includes four charts written for his Melbourne band, an equal number for his Los Angeles band, and one — the title tune — for the combined ensembles. The album title, as Davies describes it, came about  because “someone said that a big band was like having a train set; both involve a lot of time and preparation, you never really finish, and both cost you a lot of money and never make you any.” 

That said, this album clearly demonstrates that, ultimately, the effort is very worthwhile.

All but two of the charts are composed, arranged and directed — from the drum chair — by Davies. The exceptions are Louis Prima’s “Sing, Sing, Sing” and Raya Yarbrough’s “Let Sleeping Questions Lie,” although Davies did have a hand in arranging them.

Both bands are 18-piece groups: five trumpets, four trombones, five reeds, and a rhythm section of piano, guitar, bass and drums. Davies is the drummer for both. Both ensembles — and sets of charts — are sensational. Although the arrangements are relatively complex, they swing wonderfully. The section passages are exciting and (where appropriate) driving, and the solo work is exceptional.

This is the finest big band jazz album I’ve heard in years!

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