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Ray Anderson Pocket brass Band: Sweet Chicago Suite

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Sweet Chicago Suite has been a long time coming. Just the second album from trombonist Ray Anderson’s Pocket Brass Band, it’s the followup to 1999’s Where Home Is . Odder still, the six-part suite that constitutes this album’s core was composed back in 2001 under a commission from Chamber Music America.

Though the suite is a musical depiction of Chicago, the Pocket Brass Band-a quartet with trumpeter Lew Soloff, sousaphonist Matt Perrine and drummer Bobby Previte-is firmly rooted in the New Orleans tradition. Anderson starts off part one, “Chicago Greys,” alone, with a winding, bending phrase, into which Perrine pumps bass notes and Previte taps out a funereal march with mallets. Soloff, with a plunger, bleats high notes, and a celebration of the ’60s-era Windy City is underway. The individual movements of Sweet Chicago Suite contain sections within them; the rhythm shifts without notice, sometimes for only a couple of bars. But even when the rhythm remains constant, the drumming does not-Previte is always reworking the components. “High School” embodies the teen years’ uninhibited, carefree spirit. The freeform “Magnificent Mistifiyo” pays tribute to the AACM. “Get to It”-well, that’s self-explanatory. Throughout, Perrine provides the bassline, for the most part, leaving Anderson and Soloff to engage, alternately, in passages that are sweet and angry, friendly and confrontational, reflective and aggressive.

The disc ends with a couple of new pieces. “The Stingray Rag” begins with a three-way conversation of chirps, growls, blurts and belches; after three minutes, these sounds suddenly align, and Previte organizes them into an old-fashioned Big Easy stomp. “Next March” uses a simple motif as a foundation for untethered interplay between the two lead horns. Thirteen years may have elapsed between records, but these guys haven’t forgotten how to party.

Originally Published