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Joey Sellers’ Jazz Aggregation: El Payaso

I’m always amazed when I get a disc like this to review: a big-band set not backed by a major record label or arts presenter. Forget whether or not it’s any good. Just the fact that an independent bandleader can get such a thing done–in a world that’s seemingly dead set against allowing such a thing to happen–is a major feat. It’s a freaking gift from heaven when it’s as good as this CD.

Trombonist/composer Sellers convenes a group of top-notch New Yorkers, among them saxophonists Tony Malaby and John O’Gallagher, trombonist Joe Fiedler and pianist David Berkman, to play his attractive, slightly left-of-center compositions. Sellers’ tunes are terrific from every angle. He has an especially superb sense of texture and color. Sellers also gives soloists inspiring and ingeniously off-center vehicles over which to blow. O’Gallagher in particular sounds tremendous. Fiedler and trumpeter Dave Ballou are superb as well. As good as the component parts are, though, it’s the whole that blows me away. Maria Schneider’s outfit notwithstanding, this is the best band of its type that I’ve heard in a while.

Originally Published