TED HOWE — Pinnacle (review)

TED HOWE — Pinnacle album cover Album · 2014 · Progressive Big Band Buy this album from MMA partners
4.5/5 ·
Often when buying current Jazz today one can find quite a few wonderful new releases each month with the majority mainly being small ensembles containing various styles from Bop, Fusion to Avante Garde and vocalists but Big Bands or Jazz Orchestras albeit although there are quite a few out there with Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Centre Jazz Orchestra being the most recognised of today’s current ones, there are not many new release albums that contain them excepting in the Latin scene. Ted Howe is one of those exceptions with a beautifully arranged and played, latest release “Pinnacle” which contains a 13 piece Jazz Orchestra with Ted leading, composing and writing the arrangements with the addition of providing superb piano input on two numbers throughout the album’s duration. This would be Ted’s fourth release as a leader with Summit Records with “Love Song” comprising a trio performing standards being the prior release to “Pinnacle” back in 2007.

One of Ted Howe’s greatest influences is none other than Duke Ellington and Ted actually has his own show he performs on a regular basis around the country,’ An Evening with Duke Ellington” and like The Duke himself he uses a Classical approach to his composing with the main section of “Pinnacle” containing three Movements but like the Duke wrote concerning his Jazz’ “It Don’t Mean A Thing, If It Ain’t Got That Swing” which is precisely what this album contains with Jazz of a gorgeous high Big Band standard being the result. Yes, it swings with that precision and tightness one can only attain with rehearsal but that is not to say there is a lack of improvision with the solos provided from various band members over all these time signatures and arrangements in the album’s compositions, just perfect. To quote, Ted Howe himself concerning the album’s theme and texture, “These pieces aren’t just about the music; they’re also about the instruments, the varied combinations of sound they make, and how great musicians can rise to just about any challenge and take the music to new and exciting places” and the Orchestra certainly does that, during this release.

The album’s compositions are titled with a Classical terminology with “Presto for Two Trombones” getting things underway with presto being a quite a good reference for the up tempo swing that the orchestra provides during the composition with two trombones soloing during the beginning and end by separate band members. Between this we also have a wonderful bass guitar solo from John Patitucci in amongst all those blazing trumpet segments and trombone solos and it is a wonderful composition and arrangement by Ted Howe. “Impromptu for Trumpet” follows, having a beautiful laid back introduction with Ted’s piano and Lester Walker’s trumpet that has Ted providing an absolute delight with his piano take and solo on the composition’s melody and meanwhile the orchestra stays in the background only coming forth during the number’s highpoints, it is performed beautifully. “Suite #1 For Jazz Orchestra” follows with three movements placed as separate tracks within the album’s content and all based on a four bar motif. “Movement 1” opens with 3 distinct electric guitar chords that are used in a repetitive manner but never over done and they re-occur later throughout the composition which changes tempo almost to a drum march time in places but goes back to the main tempo with the orchestra coming back with a superb full sound and a wonderful kick within the arrangement. “Movement 2” comes in with a slower time with more great guitar work to open and the Orchestra having quite a bit of Classical sound in the compositions opening but John Patitucci quickly changes all that when he appears on bass with the composition gaining quite a nice Brazilian influence in the later part. “Movement 3” is just as wonderful with the trumpet covered by the hat bringing that old time New Orleans feel but that quickly changes within Ted’s arrangement to a much quicker tempo with superb swing from the orchestra. “Adagio For Piano” as the title implies is the album’s ballad with Ted at the helm for a lovely interpretation with superb space on piano in the composition and even when the orchestra is right behind him you still hear every beautiful note even within the compositions intricate points which also has the addition of a sterling laid back trumpet to accompany him. . The more up tempo “Jazz Etude for Three Clarinets” brings the album to a close with a mixture of clarinets used from three of the band members and yes there is still more of that Big Band swing to savour.

Great album, Ted said in his album notes that he had never attempted a to write Suite and after this one let’s hope he has a go at another very soon. Wonderful to get something a little different and I suppose that it is bit sad to say, due to the lack of Big Band recordings released today as they were the corner stone of Jazz once, but Ted seems to trying to remedy the problem with this classy, swingin’ stompin’ and just wonderful Jazz album.
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