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NewYorkestra Big Band: Urban Soundscapes

There are two challenges involved here, the more basic being execution. The high intellectual level of the writing, mostly by Rob Middleton and Pete McGuinness, could not be fully realized by just any big band. Obviously the NewYorkestra players took up the gauntlet because they believe in the eclectic concepts that constantly push the tonality envelope. The second challenge is aimed at listeners: have the patience to listen and relisten-it will prove rewarding.

Among those rewards are 16 intensely swinging players (percussionist Bobby Sanabria is added some tracks) who form highly disciplined sections that thrive on clusters, utilizing endless doublings that enhance the color palette over a rhythm section that occasionally dispenses with strict time. Keyboardist Mike Holober, bassist Andy Eulau (alternating between acoustic and electric) and drummer Scott Neumann busily jab without losing the pulse. But on straightahead charts, such as Herbie Hancock’s “One Finger Snap” and Middleton’s “The Night Shift,” they swing aggressively.

Memorable solos include soprano saxophonist Steve Kenyon and trombonist McGuinness on “Out of the Frying Pan,” Rob’s brother tenorist Andy Middleton on “Portland Painter” and “Digital Life” and the muted trumpeting of Bill Mobley on the latter, a chart energized by Sanabria’s tinkering.

Originally Published