Superb jazz artistry awaits on the new CD from the Westchester Jazz Orchestra (WJO), Maiden Voyage Suite, an ambitious and powerful re-imagining of Herbie Hancock’s classic 1965 album. Multi-Grammy-winning trumpeter Randy Brecker says, "'WJO offers a whole new slant on Herbie Hancock's iconic compositions. World-class writing and playing!" More reviews and quotes are posted at http://www.westjazzorch.org/reviews_press.htm
The new CD follows the group’s acclaimed 2007 debut, All In, which peaked at #4 on the national JazzWeek chart, finishing at #50 for the year, and which the Toronto Star called “an expertly woven and thrilling collection.” WBGO 88.3FM, the major jazz radio station for the NY metropolitan area, has already honored WJO’s new effort by selecting it for the station’s CD of the Month Club for October 2011.
“What WJO has done on Maiden Voyage Suite is revisit one of the great evergreens in the jazz canon and make it their own,” said WBGO Music Director and Morning Show Host Gary Walker, a member of WJO’s advisory board. “I was invited to one of the recording sessions and, in the studio, Mike Holober and the sixteen band members were truly all in. Their interplay and soloing made me realize what a great band WJO has become.”
Maiden Voyage Suite features WJO-commissioned arrangements from Artistic Director/Conductor Mike Holober, WJO saxophonist Jay Brandford and WJO trumpeter Tony Kadleck, as well as from frequent WJO contributor Pete McGuinness, the famed trombonist and Grammy-nominated big band leader. In the hands of such gifted writers, Maiden Voyage Suite beautifully balances the spirit and intention of the source material with the exploratory zeal and sterling musicianship of the band’s sixteen musicians.
WJO spotlights a number of stellar jazz soloists, who are given ample space to realize their ideas and inventiveness. From the album’s start, as pianist Ted Rosenthal paints a picture of a mariner looking out across the water and readying his ship hands to set sail, WJO members display their brilliance as ensemble players and improvisers. Trumpeter and flugelhorn master Marvin Stamm takes a hand-off from soprano saxophonist David Brandom delivering a shimmering turn on “Maiden Voyage” and then shows his smoking side on “Eye of the Hurricane” after tenor saxophonist Jason Rigby lights up the proceedings. Elsewhere, trumpeter Jim Rotondi blows both hot and cool on “Survival of the Fittest—Part 1” and “Dolphin Dance,” while bassist Harvie S displays his tasteful vision on “Little One.” Saxophonist Ralph Lalama graces “Dolphin Dance” with a gliding tenor solo while Rosenthal and drummer Andy Watson keep the rhythm churning.
In 2007 when Mike Holober was hired as WJO’s artistic director and conductor at the prompting of the group’s executive director and co-founder Emily Tabin, one of his immediate tasks was to organize an upcoming concert featuring big band arrangements of Maiden Voyage. Holober was the right person for a task that many in the music world would characterize as daunting. A remarkably adroit and forceful pianist and composer who first came to prominence during the early 1990s in a quartet led by late baritone sax great Nick Brignola, Holober has won wide acclaim in the past 15 years for his own small group and big band efforts around the globe. In addition, he serves as associate director of the BMI Jazz Composers’ Workshop, following in the steps of famed jazz writers like Bob Brookmeyer, Jim McNeely and the late Manny Albam, and he was recently appointed to a two-year stint as Associate Guest Conductor of the venerable Frankfurt Radio Big Band (HR), while remaining at the helm of WJO.
Pete McGuinness, who has been working closely with Holober over the years, contributed the “Maiden Voyage” chart for what Holober was envisioning as the “Maiden Voyage Suite.” WJO members Jay Brandford and Tony Kadleck penned charts for the “Little One” and “Dolphin Dance” sections of the suite, respectively.
Holober, meanwhile, took care of the charts for “Eye of the Hurricane” and the two-part look at “Survival of the Fittest,” as well as segueing material that became the “Prologue,” “Interlude” and “Epilogue.” Holober and WJO premiered “Maiden Voyage Suite” at the band’s April 14, 2007 performance. In many ways, it announced that the 17-member outfit was taking a new direction—an intensely creative one.
“With Maiden Voyage Suite we created an artistically unified work that provides many opportunities for the arrangers and soloists,” said Holober in an interview. “WJO is truly a writers’ and blowers’ band. This really comes together here on the album in a powerful and passionate way.”
Maiden Voyage Suite is funded, in part, by a recording grant from the Aaron Copland Fund for Music.
WJO begins its 2011-2012 season with a concert on September 24 featuring guest performer and tenor sax titan Joe Lovano.
Watch WJO’s 2 minute video at their homepage: www.westjazzorch.org