The New York State of the Art Jazz Ensemble is breaking ground. Mike Longo provides the big band ensemble with the orchestral elements that lift it to heights of great expression, never leaving or abandoning the earthy, compelling groove of the music. Made up of the finest ensemble players and soloists in New York today, it's no wonder that for the past year, they have been delighting audiences with the spirit and inspiration of jazz.
Any big band that can make Porgy and Bess swing has my approval. Pianist Mike LongoÕs New York State of the Art Jazz Ensemble not only enlivens a medley of tunes from George Gershwin's groundbreaking folk opera, it pulverizes without remorse every other chart during a fabulous coming‹out party on Longo's Consolidated Artists label. After forming the band, Longo spent a year gigging around before shepherding everyone into a recording studio to document their prowess. The time invested
together paid dividends, as the ensemble - in whose ranks are a number of New York's most accomplished soloists and sidemen - is sharp and focused from arrival to departure. The NYSAJE provides a lavish banquet, and for dessert Longo serves up a tantalizingly even‹tempered helping of Duke Ellington's fundamental Jazz axiom, "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It AinÕt Got
That Swing)." Which, of course, it don't. The ensemble comes out swinging hard (shades of SuperSax!) on Sonny Stitt's smoldering "Eternal Triangle" (featuring Frank Perowsky's tenor), and while I'd have welcomed a slightly faster tempo, I'm not one of those who had to play it. Next up is the first of three compositions by Longo, "Blue Gil," an assertive blues inspired
by Longo's memories of composer / arranger Gil Fuller. Tenor Frank Basile, guitarist Adam Rafferty, trombonist Wayne Andre and trumpeter Virgil Jones brighten the landscape with enterprising solos. Benny Golson's "Along Came Betty," a medium‹tempo charmer with solo space for Longo and alto Lee Greene, is followed by the 12-minutes-plus Porgy and Bess
medley, scored by Longo and featuring Perowsky's clarinet ("Summertime"), Jones's trumpet and Bob Suttmann's trombone. Longo composed "Frisco" for a quintet, and it was amplified for the band by Dick Cone. Again, topnotch solos by Jones, Basile (flute), Rafferty and alto Bob Magnuson. The Jazz waltz "Dancing on the Moon" was written in 1970 as a feature for Longo's close friend Dizzy Gillespie who played it on The Dick Cavett Show. Jones sits in for Diz on this new version. Gillespie, for whom Longo served as music director / pianist, is represented by two of his radiant compositions, "A Night in Tunisia" (showcasing Suttmann, Longo, lead trumpeter Joe Shepley and tenor Bob Curtis) and the polyrhythmic, polymetric and Afrocentric "Kush" (with solos by Greene, Jones, trombonist Sam Burtis and baritone Matt Snyder). Bassist Lyn Christie"s arco is front and center on Rodgers and Hammerstein's lyrical "Younger Than Springtime" from the celebrated musical South Pacific. By slowing Ellington's flag‹waver to a bluesy crawl, Longo gives the ensemble a chance to show beyond a doubt that swing can appear in all guises and tempos. A marvelous debut for New York City's newest kid on the big‹band block. Track listing: Eternal Triangle; Blue Gil; Along Came Betty; Porgy and Bess medley; Frisco; Dancing on the Moon; A Night in
Tunisia; Younger Than Springtime; Kush; It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing) (70:30).
Personnel: Mike Longo, leader, piano; Joe Shepley, Burt Collins, Virgil Jones, Ryan Kisor, Greg Gisbert, Seneca Black, trumpet; Wayne Andre, Sam Burtis, Bob Suttmann, trombone; Johnathan Greenberg, bass trombone; Bob Magnuson, alto sax, oboe, English horn; Lee Greene, alto sax, clarinet, flute; Frank Perowsky, Frank Basile, tenor sax, clarinet, flute; Bob Curtis, tenor sax,
clarinet; Matt Snyder, baritone sax, bass clarinet; Adam Rafferty, guitar; Lynn Christie, Cameron Brown, bass; Darryl Pellegrini, drums.
JACK BOWERS...ALL ABOUT JAZZ
Contact: Consolidated Artists Productions, 290 Riverside Drive, Suite 11-D, New York, NY 10025.