Paul Dietrich Jazz Ensemble featuring Clarence Penn – Forward – self produced – 66:07 *****:
Orchestral jazz bringing the best elements of classical, folk, and rock genres together into an Americana blend, can be among the most comforting and healing experiences imaginable in our hectic times. The elation that a horn fanfare from a jazz ensemble of trumpets/trombones/saxophones can bring is one that is deeply satisfying.
Bob Brookmeyer was one of the first to bridge the jazz and classical realms, along with Gil Evans. Both Evans, and Brookmeyer, mentored Maria Schneider, and she has risen to great heights with her jazz orchestral issues, most notably The Thompson Fields, which won a 2017 Grammy Award for Best Large Jazz Ensemble, as well as winning the Readers Poll of Downbeat Magazine. Her CD was inspired by the native farm areas of rural Minnesota, where Schneider was raised.
A new voice in this Americana theme renaissance is Wisconsin bred trumpeter and composer, Paul Dietrich. Paul is releasing a self produced and funded CD with similar influences, titled Forward (the state motto), available next month. Anchored by drummer, Clarence Penn, (who also held the drum chair on The Thompson Fields), this CD is full of deeply moving paeans to his home state.
“Rush” begins the CD with horn driven uplifting patterns propelled by Clarence Penn’s assertive drumming. Carl Kennedy’s gentle lines open the palette for trumpeter, Russ Johnson, followed by Tony Barba on tenor sax. The whole horn section rises to heights between the soloists. “Settle” has an introspective opening with horns and piano rising, bringing to mind clouds clearing over a meadow in an early morning scene. Greg Ward, on alto, helps open a fuller soundscape, that the ensemble explores before returning to a more mellow conclusion.
“Like Water” brings a fanfare that trombonist, Andy Baker, expands then Matt Gold, on guitar, brings counterpoint lines, till the horns soar, and then release to a serene ending.
“Chorale” has a four and five part harmony that is restful and inspiring. Dustin Laurenzi’s tenor sax solo is both soulful and penetrating.
The four movement suite title track provides over half of the sixty six minute CD length. They explore different themes of small town comforting constancy; the eerily quiet after heavy snowfall; the different regions of Wisconsin explored by road; and lastly, a tribute to Fred Sturm, a distinguished jazz professor at Lawrence University, who inspired Dietrich on his musical journey. Paul plays trumpet on this closing number, “Green Fields.”
This is stunningly beautiful music, well recorded and mixed with care. Dietrich wrote all the compositions and spearheaded the crowd funding efforts through a Kickstarter campaign. He is a major talent, and this CD richly deserves a five star rating. Forward will be released in late March. It’s my favorite jazz based CD so far this year.
Forward I: Perennial
Forward II: Snow
Forward III: Roads
Forward IV: Green Fields
(Paul Dietrich – compositions, trumpet; Corbin Andrick: alto sax, soprano sax, clarinet, flute; Greg Ward – alto sax; Tony Barba – tenor sax; Dustin Laurenzi – tenor sax; Mark Hiebert – baritone sax, bass clarinet
Andy Baker, Jamie Kember, Kurt Dietrich – trombones; Tom Matta – bass trombone
Chuck Parrish, Russ Johnson, Jessica Jensen, David Cooper – trumpets
Matt Gold – guitar and effects; Carl Kennedy – piano; John Christensen – bass; Clarence Penn – drum set; Megan Moran – voice (#1, 3, 5-8)