Terraza is a bit of an anomaly, a writers’ band that doesn’t bear the name of either of its chief composers. Instead, the group takes its moniker from Terraza 7, the Queens nightspot that has been its home since it was assembled in 2015 by saxophonist Michael Thomas and bassist Edward Perez, to perform music each had written.
They’ve assembled an impressive crew to breathe life into these tunes—saxophonists Roman Filiú and Troy Roberts, trumpeters Alex Norris and Josh Deutsch, trombonists John Fedchock, and pianist Luis Perdomo, among others—but the writing remains the big attraction. The charts are ambitious and colorful, boasting the semi-symphonic breadth found in many students of the Gil Evans/Bob Brookmeyer school, but with a Latin undercurrent—and not just in the time-keeping, but also in the way the band approaches melody.
Thomas’ arrangement of Roberts’ “One Day Wonder” is a case in point. After a lushly harmonized statement of the A strain, the chart builds layers of countermelody around the riff-like B section, transforming that riff into something more like a clave, serving as a backbone for what the rest of the Terraza Big Band are playing. Roberts’ tune is both expanded and transformed.
Some tracks are more piquantly Latin, like Perez’s Cubop-spiced “Me Lo Dijo Mi Primo,” while the flavor is milder on others. Either way, the compositions dazzle. The intricately intertwined melodic lines in Thomas’ “Zed,” for instance, are so beautifully balanced that the band occasionally sounds bigger than it really is (and credit conductor Miho Hazama for some of that clarity). Taken as a whole, One Day Wonder is the sort of debut that should make big-band fans not only take notice, but hunger for more.
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