The Stone/Bratt Big Band debut recording, Stone Bratt Big Band is a remarkable album featuring nine original compositions for big band written by co-leader and composer/saxophonist Douglas Stone. The Stone/Bratt Big Band is a seventeen member group which brings together outstanding musicians who are part of the ever vibrant Chicago creative music scene. Significantly, the group features big band music that is original, unpublished and crafted by members of the group.
Founded in April of 2006, the Stone/Bratt Big Band is the inspiration of two long-time friends: Doug Bratt and his near-namesake, Doug Stone. Stone and Bratt first met in 1999 as members of the acclaimed Northern Illinois University Jazz Ensemble. Upon relocating to the Chicago area, Bratt and Stone both became enamored with the idea of creating a big band of young, area music professionals to explore, create and foster the growth of new music for the traditional big band format. Most importantly, Bratt and Stone sought to form a catalyst for friends to gather and create music together. As they called upon friends both old and new, including many who had been part of the NIU jazz scene, the overriding concern was that members should share a positive, easygoing vibe and possess a passion for playing adventurous music of all kinds.
The band's debut recording, Stone Bratt Big Band, features works composed by SBBB co-leader, Douglas Stone who is a noted a Chicago area saxophonist and a former member of Maynard Ferguson's Big-Bop Nouveau band. The opener, "Chaplin's Hat" is a gently lilting waltz that begins with a wistful duet between trumpeter James Davis and alto saxophonist Caroline Davis. As this arrangement unfolds, the middle section features a surging tenor saxophone solo by Mike Salter against a backdrop of cascading horns. The raucous "Randy Stone" is a reflection of the band's more playful nature and is driven by co-leader Doug Bratt's hard rockin' drums. The song opens with trumpeter James Davis attempting to "stump" the saxophone section in a humorous call-and-response. As the tune catapults into a burning up-tempo swing, listeners will hear in the drum/piano/bass interplay, an homage to the late-60's Miles Davis Quintet as well as a startling solo on the bass trumpet by Chicago music scene veteran, Ryan Shultz.
Can a band truly defy categorization? If not, then perhaps the best way to describe the SBBB sound is "open minded." Never afraid to throw some sand around the play lot, the band dives mischievously into the free formed "Plugged Up" which features a marvelous trombone, baritone saxophone duet between Rick Rohde and Jeremy Budrow. For the traditionalists, the band swings hard throughout "Sure Thing" and "Carter's Constituency." Both pay tribute to the hard swingin', Basie /Ellington infused songbook of the NIU Jazz Ensemble from which both Stone and Bratt hail. Listeners will no doubt be amused by the sneaky sounding "These Be Bieb's Loose Bolues;" featured on this clever blues arrangement are outstanding solos by trombonist, Raphael Crawford; alto saxophonist, Caroline Davis; bassist, John Tate and trumpeter, Dave Hoffman. "Confined Within" and "It's All in Your Head" each provide dramatic, lush settings for Doug Stone's saxophones to glide across the band with cascades of color and sound.
The Stone/Bratt Big Band established itself as a remarkable new member of the celebrated Chicago jazz scene in the mid-2000s. Their debut album represents a major first step in their musical journey. Not surprisingly, listeners who are fortunate enough to discover the album and this band become a part of the band's extended family and sharing in the joy of playing and making music with the very best of friends!