JazzTimes is honored to present the premiere of “Big Bottom/Lonely Woman” by the Michael Leonhart Orchestra. The track cleverly combines a song from the soundtrack of the 1984 Rob Reiner rockumentary This Is Spinal Tap with an Ornette Coleman classic, and is taken from the orchestra’s upcoming album Suite Extracts Vol. I, which will be released August 30 on Sunnyside Records.
Arranged by Leonhart, “Big Bottom/Lonely Woman” is part of a larger “Spinal Tap Suite” that is excerpted at greater length on the album. It shares space with selections from “The Wu-Tang Suite,” an instrumental rearrangement of songs by the Staten Island-born hip-hop collective the Wu-Tang Clan. Such zanily eclectic long-form works are quickly becoming a hallmark of Leonhart’s orchestra, which has a monthly residency at New York’s Jazz Standard; other suites in their book (all set to be recorded eventually) include a Bernard Herrmann Psycho suite, a Vince Guaraldi Charlie Brown Christmas suite, and an Ennio Morricone suite.
Personnel on “Big Bottom/Lonely Woman” is as follows, with featured performers listed first.
Tenor saxophone (solo): Donny McCaslin
Bass (solo): Joe Martin
Bassoon (solo): Sara Schoenbeck
Drums: Eric Harland and Kevin Raczka
Guitar: Robbie Mangano
Accordion: Nathan Koci
Percussion: Elizabeth Pupo-Walker
Trumpets: Dave Guy, Philip Dizack, Jordan McLean, Carter Yasutake
Trombone: Ray Mason
Woodwinds: John Ellis, Chris Potter, Ian Hendrickson-Smith, Jason Marshall
Violin: Pauline Kim
Cello: Erik Friedlander
Leonhart comments about this track: “Spinal Tap played a major part in my adolescence, so it was a no-brainer to adapt some of the wild and absurd songs from the 1984 cult classic for the MLO’s ‘Spinal Tap Suite.’ One of the first arrangements I wrote for the orchestra was Tap’s ‘Big Bottom.’ Looking back, I can’t recall the moment I decided to drop Ornette’s ‘Lonely Woman’ in the middle of this arrangement, but it certainly provides an hypnotic foundation over which Donny McCaslin’s tenor solo takes flight.”
Suite Extracts Vol. 1 is the followup to the Orchestra’s 2018 debut album The Painted Lady Suite. When that album was released, Leonhart told JazzTimes that “the intention was not to have it be a big band per se, even though I love Ellington and Thad Jones. I wanted to have a little bit of the Third Stream element.” Based on this track, it’s fair to say that “a little bit” is an understatement.
To find out more about the Michael Leonhart Orchestra, visit their website.