Westchester Jazz Orchestra – Maiden Voyage Suite – WJO Records, 54:38 ****:
(saxophone/reeds: Jay Brandford, David Brandom, Ralph Lalama, Jason Rigby, Ed Xiques; trumpet/Flugelhorn: Tony Kadleck, Craig Johnson, Marvin Stamm, Jim Rotondi – trombone: Larry Dean Farrell, Keith O’Quinn, Bruce Eidem, George Flynn – Piano: Ted Rosenthal; Bass: Harvie S; Drums: Andy Wilson)
There is nothing in jazz to compare to the sound of a well-oiled big band. There is nothing in jazz to compare to the sound of a well-oiled big band playing music from an exemplary composer. The Maiden Voyage Suite by the WJO delivers such an experience.
Taking the structure of Herbie Hancock’s concept album Maiden Voyage as its embarkation point, the WJO has created a musical journey that develops on Hancock’s original themes and adds a musical layer that builds on the complexity of the underlying compositions. While execution of the charts is critical, the arrangements must have the integrity and inventiveness to challenge the musicians and those written by Mike Holober, Pete McGuinness, Jay Brandford and Tony Kadleck do just that.
This disc is programmed with the same song order as the original Hancock album but has three additional components;” Prologue”, “Interlude” and “Epilogue”. These mini-suites are meant to provide a touchstone for the listener during different phases of the journey by suggesting the musical theme, reprising the initial motif, and then offering a completion. This material is very effective in bringing a sense of continuity to individual tracks.
“Maiden Voyage” begins with the horns stating the theme over the bass of Harvie S then segues into a long interlude by the soprano sax of David Brandom, which is picked up by the flugelhorn of Marvin Stamm. The band continues to restate the theme as the track closes out. Much like the collaboration between Miles Davis and Gil Evans on Miles Ahead, the next track “Eye of the Hurricane” and all remaining tracks flow seamlessly onwards. This one is an up-tempo number propelled by the tenor sax of Jason Rigby and trumpet of Marvin Stamm, along with some terrific piano work by Ted Rosenthal.
It would simply be stating the obvious to complement the WJO and the featured soloists as the compositions evolve over the remainder of the disc. Nevertheless special mention should be given to contribution of Larry Farrell’s solid trombone work on “Little One”, and pianist Ted Rosenthal as he prances over the keys in “Survival of the Fittest, Part 1”. Finally on “Dolphin Dance” the band coalesces around Tony Kadleck’s arrangement to push Ralph Lalama on tenor sax into delivering an inspiring solo.
It is a pleasure to listen to a jazz band that is committed to produce such a sharp re-imagining of Hancock’s iconic compositions.
TrackList: Prologue; Maiden Voyage; Eye of the Hurricane; Little One; Interlude; Survival of the Fittest Part 1; Survival of the Fittest Part 2; Dolphin Dance; Epilogue.
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