What the critics are saying about "Novel Ellington and Strayhorn":
"These are all seasoned jazz guys, and the result is a sound that made me sway, smile, groove, slow-dance with myself around the living room and play the air snare drums."
"Note to self: Bring this disc to work and impress jazz-appreciating boss."
Aimsel Ponti, Critic- Portland Press Herald
The "Novel Jazz Septet"-- consisting of Barney Balch (trombone), Mike Mitchell (trumpet), Bruce Boege (saxophone), Mickey Felder (piano), Dave Clarke (guitar), Herb Maine (bass) and Mark Macksoud (drums)-- has been working on this project for almost two years. The story of the CD is that on a frigid, snowy February night in 2006, the Novel Jazz Septet was playing their regular gig at Skidompha Library, in Damariscotta, ME. While performing an Ellington-Strayhorn tune that they had never performed before, they realized that they were still hearing new Ellington-Strayhorn tunes, even after playing jazz, together and individually, for decades. With a little digging, Barney Balch discovered that just the Duke Ellington Collection at the National Archives in Washington DC has some 450 book boxes in their sheet music collection. The Strayhorn collection is also voluminous. These two composers collectively wrote >3000 compositions. Equally impressive, their most well-known tunes represent only a few percent of their lives' work.
With this in mind, trombonist Barney Balch and trumpeter Michael Mitchell mined original piano scores of these jazz legends for material that could be re-interpreted in new and exciting ways. They went through 120 original piano scores, chose 20, and scored them for the Novel Jazz Septet. The band rehearsed them, experimenting with the sound, tempos and instrumentation and chose a subset of these to include in this CD along with some old favorites too, plus two compositions of the Ellington Orchestra, neither written by Ellington nor Strayhorn, but signature tunes of the Ellington Orchestra, nonetheless. The CD was co-produced by Balch and saxophonist Bruce Boege, who runs Limin Music, a sound studio in Northport, Maine.
The members of Novel Jazz have had multifaceted careers in music.
Barney Balch (tenor, alto and soprano trombones) began his jazz career in Boston in the mid 1970's with Craig Ball, Dave McMillan and Jimmy Mazzy, as the "Dixie Cookbook". In 1978 he began performing with veteran stride pianist, Bob Page and the Downeast Jazz Babies (including blues guitarist, TJ Wheeler, and the late Dick Cash). In 1980, Barney moved to California and studied with the late, great Kansas City Blues Trombonist, Jimmy Cheatham (veteran of Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton, and Thad Jones orchestras). Since returning to Maine in the mid 90's, Barney has primarily worked in small bands, the "Sheepscot Jazz and Swing Company" and the "Novel Jazz Septet", in which he gigs with some of northern New England's "swingingest" jazz musicians. He can still be heard with Bob Page and the Jazz Babies and also appears on two of Bob's CDs.
Herb Maine (bass) is well-regarded for his solid rhythms and great creativity. He works regularly throughout the state of Maine, with pianists Mickey Felder, Kenny Gaspar and others. He has performed with a number of well-known jazz greats including the late Herb Pomeroy.
Guitarist David Clarke took up guitar at age 12 and had his first paying gig that same year. He joined the United States Air Force Band at age 17, spending his first 2 years in Biloxi, Mississippi (the birthplace of the blues). His next 18-month assignment was at Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines, touring Okinawa, Korea, Japan, Guam, and Hawaii. He spent his last 10 months in the service gigging for Uncle Sam at Travis Air Force Base in California. Upon returning to mid-coast Maine in 1986, he opened a music business, "David's Music", in Belfast. He teaches and works professionally with several bands.
Mike Mitchell (trumpet, cornet, flugelhorn) has been playing jazz trumpet in Maine for nearly thirty years. Mike studied at the University of Maine at Augusta' jazz program and later in the University of Miami jazz studies program. Mike brings his love of jazz and performing together with his soulful trumpet playing and many jazz compositions that he contributes to the group.
Bruce Boege has been playing music in mid-coast Maine for close to three decades. He plays in several jazz groups and has performed jazz from Hungary to Hawaii. He also operates his recording studio "Limin Music" in Northport, Maine. He is a composer, creating soundtracks for various film and video projects as well as composing jazz pieces and other music. He has performed with the late James Williams of the Art Blakey Jazz Messengers, Miles Evans, Mary Ann Driscoll, Francine Reed (of the Lyle Lovett band), and played and jammed with many others including Keith Richards and Willy Nelson.
Mark Macksoud (drums) studied percussion with the late great Tony Williams in New York City, Ed Soph in Connecticut, and Alan Dawson in Massachusetts. He earned a Bachelor of Music from the New England Conservatory in Boston in 1984. Mark has performed and/or toured with the Eddie Madden Orchestra, Bo Winiker Orchestra, Tiger Okoshi (Mark Kleinhaut Trio), and Bobby Watson. He started his music career in Boston, has played in many states and abroad (Germany, Amsterdam, France). He currently teaches privately at Colby College in Waterville, ME and at the Portland Conservatory of Music.
Mick Felder (piano) can't remember when he wasn't playing the piano. Mick Felder studied classical piano in New York with Charles Ragusa, and jazz with Charlie Banacos and Scott Oakley. During the late 60's he took a musical detour into folk music, playing guitar and singing in small clubs in New York. Moving to Maine in 1971, he and four other talented musicians formed the popular bluegrass band "Wild Mountain Thyme" which performed throughout New England for many years. Mick returned to jazz in the late 70's and has been performing in concerts, clubs and restaurants throughout Maine ever since.