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July/August 2000

Jim Cifelli New York Nonet
So You Say
A Records

The players here won't conjure a lot of name recognition, but they have lots of experience, particularly of the big band variety. The two names that appear most often in the collective credits are Toshiko Akiyoshi and Maria Schneider, and the ambitiously-arranged mainstream modern style favored by these two women is quite close to what Cifelli's Nonet has to offer. The leader and Andy Gravish both play trumpet and flugelhorn, with trombonist Pete McGuinness rounding out the brass. Reeds are Cliff Lyons, Joel Frahm and Barbara Cifelli, while guitarist Pete McCann and drummer Tim Horner team with either Mary Ann MacSweeney or Paul Adamy for rhythm. Half the tunes and two thirds of the arrangements are by the leader but, like Akiyoshi or Schneider, he likes to try out different things, from ballads to a Latin feel to slightly jazz-rock tinged items-and he does it well. The soloists are consistently interesting and the charts are attractive and brilliantly played. Since we may never again see soloists in this style to equal those of hard bop generation, placing the emphasis on writing makes all the sense in the world, particularly when the writing is this good.

Originally published in July/August 2000
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