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The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra: Can I Persuade You?

The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra dedicates its new CD to Julie Cavadini, a composer and arranger who died in 1988 when she was 31. Cavadini’s work has been in the Orchestra’s book for years but until now has gone unrecorded. Her “A Simple Wish” and “Can I Persuade You?” are rich in voicings across the sections and alive with the warmth of her writing. The contemplative progress of “A Simple Wish,” with its searching Scott Wendholt trumpet solo, is interrupted by a section of intensity and confusion before its peaceful resolution. “Can I Persuade You?” is a mini-concerto for alto saxophone and orchestra, with a brilliant performance by Dick Oatts. The floating feeling in the orchestration seems inspired by Gil Evans, but the depth and texture in her scoring of the low instruments indicate that Cavadini was onto something of her own. It would be interesting to hear more of her work.

Jimmy Giuffre’s “Dragon Fly” is full of heraldic announcements by the brass and ends with an abrupt surprise. It has a Rich Perry tenor saxophone solo with the conversational flow of a friend telling you something important. Ed Neumeister’s wonderfully eccentric arrangement of Wayne Shorter’s “ESP” is punctuated by John Riley’s forceful drum breaks. In “Antigua,” composer Bob Mintzer approximates his hero Thad Jones’ writing, including at least one direct quote. Jim McNeely has a long piano solo that builds brilliantly on the arrangement’s Latin elements.

The remaining pieces, Garnett Brown’s “Bachafillen,” his arrangement of “Sophisticated Lady,” and Bill Holman’s classic treatment of “Just Friends,” go back in the Orchestra’s evolution from the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis band and the Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra. They elicit superior solos from saxophonists Perry, Oatts, Billy Drewes, Gary Smulyan and Ralph Lalama; trombonists John Mosca and Luis Bonilla; and bassist Dennis Irwin. The penultimate every-man-for-himself section of “Just Friends” has several of them soloing simultaneously. It’s a riot, but everything turns out fine. With this band, it usually does.

Originally Published