The Phoenix Jazz Project was born from a desire to perform more original material. Formed in 2004, we went through many personnel changes as most bands do in their infancy. What Jessie and I wanted were musicians who were willing to sacrifice their time and energy to rehearse original music. I did not want to just go onstage and call standards. I wanted our music to be fresh and inventive. We finally found those musicians in Jason, Bob, and Curtis. Eventually, Mike Sakash was added to mix on alto and soprano.
The process for this particular project began with a mini tour to Eastern Europe with the Traverser Saxophone Quartet, a group of musicians in Western Pennsylvania and Northern West Virginia. Traverser was formed to explore and perform new saxophone music. The group has premiered numerous works by several composers and arrangers around the country. Having been invited to join them on tour, I decided to arrange two pieces for both groups to perform together. It turned out to be a good idea, as it helped bring each show full circle.
It was for that tour that the arrangements for "Tenderly" and "How Insensitive" were written. Tenderly is a melody that Jessie just loves, as it is one of her all time favorites. I had written a five horn arrangement of it as a project in graduate school. Remembering that project inspired me to take it to another level for the sax quartet. How Insensitive is one of my favorite tunes of all time and I had always wanted to do something special with it. There's something about the combination of melody, harmony, and bass movement that has a sensuousness about it. A beauty that is hard to describe.
After the tour Curtis Johnson and Mike Sakash contacted me with the prospect of doing an entire cd of my arrangements. It was because the first two arrangements worked out so well on tour that I decided to continue the project. Traverser plays at such a high level and blends so well together, I really didn't need much coaxing. The biggest challenge of the entire project for me was incorporating a vocalist. This was something I had never done before. The difficulty lies in finding a balance among the vocalist, saxes, and soloists.
Most of the basis for the quintet's music lies in traditional jazz. But the group prides itself in creating and performing good music regardless of genre. From the traditional styles of originals "Halfway Out" and "Billy or Bud" to the modernized arrangements of classics "If I Only Had a Brain" and "Softly As a Morning Sunrise," The Phoenix Jazz Project provides a wide variety of entertaining music. Having only been in existence for a few years, The Phoenix Jazz Project has already wowed audiences from Pittsburgh to Russia. A June 2005 tour to Eastern Europe including Budapest's Cotton Club and Vienna's Jazzland produced standing ovations and rave reviews. That tour also included stops in Prague, Czech Republic, Brataslava, Slovakia and Krakow, Poland where the band performed and conducted clinics. A December 2005 tour to Belgium yielded more performances, clinics, and standing ovations. And an October 2008 tour to Russia yielded even more praises. This new Pittsburgh band already has the locals raving about their "New York Sound." Their current project has pianist/composer/arranger Thomas Glovier writing and arranging classics for a collaboration cd with The Traverser Saxophone Quartet.
With influences ranging from Herbie Hancock, McCoy Tyner & Keith Jarrett (pianist, Tom Glovier); to John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, & Earth Wind and Fire (saxophonist, Curtis Johnson); to Eric Dolphy and Charlie Parker (saxophonist, Mike Sakash); to Kim Nazarian, Tierney Sutton, Ella Fitzgerald & Dianne Reeves (vocalist, Jessie Glovier), The Phoenix Jazz Project performs its material with excellence. Jason Birch (drums) and Bob Insko (bass) provide a fresh, creative approach that is the perfect compliment to the rest of the group.
"REAL arrangements played by a REAL ensemble------REAL music that requires active listening!! This project is a true musical dialogue between a sax quartet, piano features and vocal highlights. It's a swingin' showcase of classic jazz standards treated with sophistication------mature tempos, a variety of styles, and dynamic range. This CD is a creative treasure of riches--------Enjoy the honesty, attitude and fun of Phoenix!....."
2 time Grammy Award Winner
and founding member of NY Voices
"....Tom was bringing it all together with some of the most moving arrangements I've ever heard or had the pleasure to record. I believe every piece on this CD will captivate you with their depth of artistry, sensitivity, and pure beauty. They have created a musical set that will take you on a most marvelous journey."
"The Phoenix Jazz Project can do what so many jazz bands can't. It can give an all-too-familiar song new life. On "When Lights Are Low," the Pittsburgh-area band even successfully tackles one of the most difficult covers in jazz: "Blue in Green."...the Project, led by pianist Tom Glovier and his wife, Jessie, does a version that stays true to the haunting beauty while also adding something else -- saxophone lines by Traverser Saxophone Quartet. Jessie Glovier's voice sometimes sounds like an imitation of Miles' muted horn. The Project and the saxes also do a great job on Thelonious Monk's "I Mean You" while Jessie Glovier takes her voice in a completely different direction on "Never Will I Marry." Besides doing such works, the title track and "Tenderly," the crew also offers "Oncallogy" by Tom Glovier and "Dialogue" by saxophonist Mike Sakash. This is a total success."
-- The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review