Featured Artist: Jazz Composer's Workshop Orchestra
CD Title: Detour!
Record Label: Self-Released
Style: Big Band / Swing
Reviewed by Thomas Erdmann
Musicians: Sal Spicola (alto sax, flute, piccolo), Gerry Niewood (alto sax, flute, piccolo), Rich Reiter (tenor sax, clarinet), Larry Puentes (tenor sax, clarinet), Roy Nicolosi (baritone sax, bass clarinet), Mike Ponella (trumpet), Kevin Bryan (trumpet), Bill Ash (trumpet), Freddie Hendricks (trumpet, flugelhorn), Joe Petrizzo (trombone), Scott Reeves (trombone), Steve Bleifus (trombone), Philip Jones (trombone), Jay Dittamo (drums), Takashi Otsuka (bass), Jim Ridl (piano), Tiffany Treni (vocals)
"Composer, trombonist, educator and leader of the Jazz Composer’s Workshop Orchestra, Mike Treni did his schooling at both the Berklee College of Music and the University of Miami. After playing professionally for a number of years and finishing his schooling, Treni eventually took a position at Berklee where he taught arranging and trombone. A move to New York found Treni playing jazz gigs, working in Broadway show pit orchestras and with his own group, Jazz Horizons Orchestra.
In 1985 Treni left music to create a business working in wireless audio and language interpretation systems. Upon retirement, Treni formed the big band group heard here on Detour! Comprised of New York musicians, many of whom are familiar names, this recording is a delight.
Treni, the composer and arranger of all seven compositions, culled this collection from music he has written during the last 30 years. The range runs from the oldest composition, “Magic Of Becoming,” written in 1973, to “Detour,” written for this group in 2006.
The prominent soloists are Gerry Niewood, known to most as the saxophonist with Chuck Mangione during the flugelhornist’s earliest recordings as a leader, and trumpeter-flugelhornist Freddie Hendricks. Niewood has never sounded better. His alto sax blasts out ringing tones of heavenly beauty infused with strength of sound and soul this critic has never heard him play with before. In addition, his much too short piccolo solo “New Millennium” is incredible. This recording is worthy for his marvelous solos alone. Hendricks has a warm flugelhorn sound and turns in a number of ripping solos as well.
The best thing about this recording, however, is the excitement and cantankerous emotion with which the ensemble plays. While every chart is great, “Wigglepuss” has enough flag-waving trombone section pedals, high trumpet notes and swinging saxophone compassion to last one through many cold winter nights.
While everything Treni writes is great, it’s perhaps his writing skill for the trombone section that stands out the most. The lines he fashions in “New Millennium” and “The Man For Me” show he truly understands all the capabilities of his axe. From sublime sectional softs, to kicking low notes in the fourth trombone part, to digging and hip lead lines, Treni makes them work their butts off. You know those guys had to be having a blast playing those parts.
In this, an era of so little great big band music, besides the work of Maria Schneider, this disc rocks."
Tracks: Phoenix Rising, Detour, Magic Of Becoming Me, The Man For Me, Wigglepuss, New Millennium and Try
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