GREAT AMERICAN MUSIC ENSEMBLE

Big Band • United States
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Doug Richards is one of the most respected composers/arrangers you've never heard of, so much so that a tribute CD, Bugles Over Zagreb: The Music of Doug Richards by Rex Richardson, came out in 2014, before Richards himself ever recorded under his own name. Richards put The Great American Music Ensemble (GAME) together in the mid-'80s, toured throughout the '90s, and in 2001, recorded It's All In The Game. Yet due to lack of label interest, it sat on the shelf unheard despite daring soloists like trumpeter Jon Faddis, violinist Joe Kennedy, Jr. [1923-2004] and vocalist Rene Marie.

Sure, touring jazz big bands are pretty much a thing of the past. The cost for folks like Ellington, Basie, Herman, Kenton and the like far outweighed the interest thereof. So today, a smart guy like Wynton Marsalis, instead of touring with his orchestra, conducts under the auspices of Lincoln Center in Manhattan
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Thanks to snobb for the addition and js for the updates

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GREAT AMERICAN MUSIC ENSEMBLE It's All in the GAME album cover 4.00 | 1 ratings
It's All in the GAME
Big Band 2016

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GREAT AMERICAN MUSIC ENSEMBLE It's All in the GAME

Album · 2016 · Big Band
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js
When you first listen to “Its All in the Game”, the premier recording by The Great American Music Ensemble led by Doug Richards, you are liable to think that here is a big band that can rival the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, especially when it comes to an ability to span the decades. Then, upon reading a little background, it turns out that although this CD was not released until 2016, it was actually recorded in 2001! It is really hard to believe that a recording this strong was delayed for fifteen years, but such is the music business. On the positive side, its nice “Its All in the Game” finally saw the light of day because it still sounds fresh, and will probably be one of the best big band recordings released this year.

Doug Richard’s ensemble excels in three main areas,: radical reconstructions of well known tunes, inspired productions of older big band sounds that are hard to re-produce, and vocal numbers based around the stellar voice of Rene Marie. Looking at the first, many of the tracks on “Game” are well known standards such as “April in Paris and “In the Mood”, but these charts are chopped up with odd-metered rhythms, sudden tempo changes and all the other tools of the modern composer. Despite the difficult arrangements, the end result sounds energetic and fun in a manner that recalls Don Ellis in the late 60s. The second area involves an ability to re-create sounds of the past (especially Ellington) without sounding contrived. On “Stardust”, Jon Faddis’ screaming trumpet recalls Ellington Orchestra trumpeter Bubber Miley, a sound that is hard for many modern players to reach. On “When its Sleepy Time Down South”, violinist Joe Kennedy Jr recalls Ellington violinist Ray Nance, once again, it’s a violin style that you just don’t hear anymore. Unfortunately, in the time that this recording sat on the shelves, Kennedy passed away. Finally we get to the best, and that is the tracks that feature vocalist Rene Marie. Rene has a strong rhythmic approach, but her vocal attack is deceptively soft, the juxtaposition of the two is fascinating to listen to as she has to be one of the top vocalists in jazz today, and a perfect choice to lead a big band. Sometimes her soft but strong approach can sound like the great Betty Roche, who sang Ellington’s first version of “Take the A Train’.

The final plus about this recording is the production, everything on here sounds full and vibrant. So here we have excellent charts that seamlessly combine the classic with the modern, played by a virtuoso ensemble that is having a blast, there is nothing to complain about here, all the pieces fit, just hope that Doug Richards will now be encouraged to do more recordings like this.

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