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The South Florida Jazz Orchestra Presents The Music Of Gary Lindsay Are We Still Dreaming Summit Records DCD 728 67:05****:

( Gary Lindsay – alto, clarinet; The South Florida Jazz Orchestra directed by bassist Chick Bergeron )

While there does not appear to be a dictionary definition of  jazz orchestra there is a definition of orchestral jazz as follows: ”the fusion of jazz’s rhythmic and instrumental characteristics with the scale and structure of an orchestra.” This description applies to The South Florida Jazz Orchestra and is embodied in their release Are We Still Dreaming—The Music of Gary Lindsay.

Each of the eight tracks is a long form composition with multi layered arrangements using a combination of Gary Lindsay originals along with material from both jazz and popular composers. Each of the eight tracks deserves some commentary because each has artistry, framework and coherence, but space constraints limit our remarks. But let’s start with a Gary Lindsay original “Moment In Time”.  While neither a bossa nova or samba, the number has a Brazilian lilt and is structured to give trumpeter Alex Norris free rein for a decisive solo. When guitarist John Hart jumps in the Brazilian groove is more strikingly noted.

Portrait of Gary Lindsay

Gary Lindsay,
© A. J. Shapiro

There are several vocal tracks on this disc, the first being a double shot “Spring Is Here/ Up Jumped Spring” featuring Julia Dollison and “Easy Living” with Nicole Yarling doing the honours. On the first, Dollison shows impressive vocal range and swings both numbers. The arrangement is built so that there is a some intricate contrapuntal exchanges between the orchestra and Dollison.  On the vocal by Yarling, there is a relaxed down home groove, that also has a thick-toned trumpet solo from Greg Gisbert.

The remaining vocal is imbedded with the title track “Are We Still Dreaming” another Gary Lindsay original. Julia Dollison’s  mostly wordless multi range vocal meanderings are blended with the orchestra with unexpected harmonic playfulness, and are sprinkled through the inventive Lindsay arrangement.

The final two cuts are by a couple of jazz’s most inventive composers. Firstly “‘Round Midnight” by Thelonious Monk, and then Billy Strayhorn’s “UMMG” ( Upper Manhattan Medical Group).  The former is framed by a dense arrangement along the lines favoured by the Stan Kenton Orchestra. There is a long angular tenor solo from Ed Calle riding over the band with the brass sections playing propulsive and abundant lines. The latter is rolled out on a strong piano solo from Martin Bejerano, after which the band picks up on the  full palette of the number to give it compelling texture.

This a solid orchestra with a distinct and assured sound.

TrackList: Moment In Time; Spring Is Here/Up Jumped Spring; Toward Hope; Easy Living; Better Days Ahead; Are We Still Dreaming; ‘Round Midnight; UMMG

— Pierre Giroux