DAN BONSANTI — The 14 Jazz Orchestra : Cartoon Bebop (review)

DAN BONSANTI — The 14 Jazz Orchestra : Cartoon Bebop album cover Album · 2021 · Big Band Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
js
Dan Bonsanti is a music educator and arranger working out of the Miami area for several decades now. Since 2015 he started a big band project called The 14 Jazz Orchestra, so named for the number of musicians in the band for performances. “Cartoon Bebop” is the band’s third album, and although the album title might imply some silliness, and the band does seem to have a lot of fun, but this album is mostly really solid contemporary big band arrangements and musicianship. Usually the band relies solely on local Miami players, but due to Covid, Dan had to reach out to musicians all around the country to complete this online endeavor. Although the parts were recorded separately using remote methods, you would not be able to tell unless someone told you. All of the performances are as lively and kinetic as you would get if all the players were assembled in one room.

The opening title track gets its name from the fact that the main theme borrows from the well known Bullwinkle and Rocky cartoon theme. Oddly enough, it ends up sounding like late 70s Weather Report, which is furthered by the fact that Peter Erskine from WR supplies the drum beat and Dan used to work with Jaco in big band settings. “Got a Match” is blazing fast bebop and features a furious sax solo from Ed Calle, who throws in a few Yardbird clichés, but often recalls Randy Brecker. Misturada and Dayride have Latin flavors that fit this band well and it would have been nice if Cisco Dimas’ trumpet solo could have gone on a little longer. “Driftin”, by Herbie Hancock, sports an arrangement that is a dead ringer for Quincy Jones, and “A Day Tripper’s Blues Buffet contorts the well known Beatles melody into a Texas blues shuffle with Lindsey Blair filling in for Stevie Ray Vaughn or Billy Gibbons.

Not everything on here is high energy, Bonsanti also includes a few ballads and waltzes to show off his use of tone colors that tend toward light, transparent textures, not heavy big band bombast. Of the mellower tracks, Chick Corea’s “Duende” carries dark noir sound colors and Wayme Shorter’s “Infant Eye’s” strikes an air of mystery with its exotic guitar melody. Its very impressive that Bonsanti and crew pulled off such a warm and energetic performance while recording by remote.
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