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Cleveland Jazz Orchestra: The Surprise of Being

Ever since the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra was founded in 1984, it’s been attracting great jazz instrumentalists, singers and arrangers from both coasts. After trumpeter Jack Schantz became its third artistic director in ’93, the band also began attracting some much-needed bread. What you hear on this, its third CD, is a 17-piece juggernaut featuring tenorist Joe Lovano and his wife, singer Judi Silvano. Her uncanny ability to duplicate a lead line adds another instrument to any mix. Emerging as the star of this session is the band’s bassist, Dave Morgan. A truly gifted arranger, Morgan’s five-part suite, “The Surprise of Being,” is the album’s creative centerpiece. The suite is a well-constructed big-band workout: the title track is an energetic, brass-plated fanfare that provides a challenge and sounding board for Lovano’s gritty blowing. The ensuing movements, particularly “The Looking Glass,” incorporate Lovano’s big tones with Silvano’s soaring wordlessness, which varies from ethereal to playful as she utilizes her highly personal scat, propelled by drummer Nate Douds and bassist Morgan. It’s an exotic, atmospheric gem of orchestral colors and big-band swing. Another peak: “Viva Caruso,” showing off sectional tightness and first-rate unison (note Silvano’s doubling of the brass licks) plus impressive solo depth in trumpeter Jim Powell and vibist Ron Busch.

Originally Published