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March 2006

Alex Budman and the Contemporary Jazz Orchestra
Instruments of Mass Pleasure
OA2 Records

For over a decade, these San Francisco swingers have had a permanent place at Pearl's, where they can hone their collective and solo chops. Imagine the luxury of being paid to run down material for a recording session. No wonder the comfort level shows on every track of Alex Budman and Co.'s fourth CD.

"Samba in 7," written by bassist Lorenzo Farrell and arranged by Budman, has a 4/3 imbalance but it's the most straightaheadsounding bossa, distinguished by dramatic choruses from Mike Olmos that Budman labels "a flugelhorn solo for the ages." There's more authentic Latin intensity on "Girolata," for which Budman added instruments of mass seduction: congas, chekere (a beaded gourd), bell and bata (drum).

Latin tunes aside, the CJO exudes the excitement of a modern-day straightahead big band while acknowledging its roots: Altoist Charles McNeal often sounds Paul Desmond-ish and Budman tips his clarinet to Goodman on "Ballad for Benny."

Originally published in March 2006
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