Boston-based Saxophonist/Educator Daniel Ian Smith and
The New World Jazz Composers Octet Release 3rd CD Breaking News
“Refined ideas, outstanding playing.” – Bill Milkowski, JazzTimes Magazine
“A fine example of medium sized jazz ensemble music that is refreshing and inspired.”
– Alan Chase, The Wire
“Not a big band but a group that is certainly worth hearing and appreciating. Hats off to Smith, Pease and their colleagues for making such charming and tasteful music accessible.”
– Jack Bowers, All About Jazz
European and American medium to large sized jazz ensembles like the WDR Big Band, the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, the NDR Big Band are few and far between. These aggregations are dream vehicles for jazz composers and arrangers because their personnel include some of the finest section players and soloists in the world. Founded in 2000 by saxophonist Daniel Ian Smith, the New World Jazz Composers Octet is quickly establishing itself as one of these respected ensembles. This diverse and critically acclaimed ensemble is releasing its 3rd CD entitled Breaking News on October 25. It is being released on Smith's Big and Phat Jazz Productions label and marks the 6th recording in its catalog. The music on the CD demonstrates clearly why the band has captured the attention of jazz composers and arrangers around the world.
The New World Jazz Composers Octet is dedicated to diversity, consistency and serious chops. Ken Cervenka and Walter Platt on trumpet and flugelhorn, Tim Ray on piano, Keala Kaumeheiwa on acoustic bass, and Ernesto Diaz on percussion are longstanding members along with saxophonist Smith. A sure sign of their collective reputation is evidenced by the recent addition of saxophonist/composer Felipe Salles (who contributes the pristine Children’s Waltz to the disc), and the well-respected and much in-demand drummer Mark Walker, who has held the drum chair in the bands led by Paquito D’Rivera and Ralph Towner’s Oregon for many years.
Smith originally founded the group as a vehicle for a concert series he was running entitled Jazz in the Sanctuary. The series has hosted the likes of Paul Bley, Mary Ehrlich, Bob Moses, Mick Goodrick, Joel Harrison, Lewis Porter, Steve Slagle and many other national and international artists.
“I put the octet together in the spirit of the Mingus Jazz Workshop,” says Smith. “I felt it was important to add this aspect to the series. In a city full of great musicians and composers and an unfortunately small number of performing venues, I felt compelled to create a space conducive for great music making and also provide an outlet and compositional challenge for the plethora of writers in our midst.” What started as a forum for some of Boston’s most respected composers including Ken Schaphorst, Dana Brayton, Sergio Brandao, Darrel Katz, Pablo Ablanedo and Bob Pilkington has quickly and not surprisingly attracted the attention of other national and international artists such as Bob Freedman, Edgar Dorantes, Charles Bubeck and most recently Michael Abene.
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Breaking News is a timely follow-up to the octet’s critically acclaimed 2010 release Transitions, which received 4½ stars in DownBeat magazine as well as excellent reviews in JazzTimes and many other publications. The new CD also marks the third recording collaboration between bandleader Smith and composer Ted Pease, Distinguished Professor of Jazz Composition at the acclaimed Berklee College of Music in Boston, where he and Smith met over 17 years ago. “I’ve been a fan and supporter of Ted’s music for many years.” Smith says. “We met when I began teaching at Berklee in 1995 and I reached out to him to see if he might be interested in contributing to the book of my big band. He immediately expressed interest and we’ve had a mutual admiration society together ever since!” Ted is also the author of the popular and best selling tome Jazz Composition: Theory and Practice, published by Berklee Press.
Breaking News features nine compositions by Matthew Nicholl, Ted Pease, Walter Platt, Richard Lowell, and Felipe Salles, as well as the prose of Paul Haines (famous for his collaborations with the great Carla Bley) set to music by Jeff Friedman.
Nicholl’s “Poco Picasso” and his beautiful ballad “Wishful Thinking” open the disc. “Picasso” is an up-tempo swinger that features the ebullient trumpet work of Walter Platt, the pristine pianist Tim Ray, the swingin’ and versatile Mark Walker. The piece ends with a funky/hip hop twist featuring an inspired tenor solo by Felipe Salles. “Breaking News” by Walter Platt comes next. The title track is a straight-ahead minor blues evoking the hard bop stylings of the ‘50s and ‘60s along with a nod to Horace Silver and the great Shorty Rogers. The piece features Platt’s incredible facility in the upper register (evoking the spirit of the great Dizzy Gillespie) and follows with a burning solo on baritone saxophone by Smith.
“Breaking News” is followed by Felipe Salles’ programmatic tone poem entitled “Children’s Waltz.” It sonically evokes the journey of youth with an impressive solo by Tim Ray and Salles’ striking tenor work. Richard Lowell’s “Warp 7, Now!” is a burning four-to-the-floor chromatic excursion written for the band years ago and finally finding its way to disc. It features impressive ensemble work as well as an intense trumpet solo by Cervenka, a tenor battle between Salles and Smith, a blistering piano solo by Tim Ray and a percussion exchange by the simpatico Ernesto Diaz and Mark Walker. Next comes Paul Haines’ poem “Song Sung Long” set to music eloquently by Jeff Friedman. In a lovely twist that adds brilliantly to the surreal nature of the poem, Smith’s daughter gracefully recites the text.
The CD closes with a trilogy of pieces by Pease dedicated to three of his favorite composers: “Thad’s Pad” (for Thad Jones), “Strays” (for Billy Strayhorn), and “Willis” (for Bill Holman). These pieces showcase the ensemble’s diversity, utilizing startling orchestrations and compositional nuance as it journeys through a thicket of rhythm changes, a Strayhorn-esque ballad, and the closing modal burner which make this octet sound like a band twice its size.