Big Band

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The Big Band genre at JMA is for large ensembles (generally ten or more musicians) who play in what best can be called a "big band style". The big band style involves breaking the large ensemble into separate sections, usually grouped by instrument, that then engage in call and response type figures with each other. These motifs can be arranged or improvised. The big band arranging style can also use repeating interlocking riffs by the various sections that provide a rhythmic groove for soloists. Early innovators in big band music include Fletcher Henderson, Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Benny Goodman. Modern big band leaders include Quincy Jones and Maynard Ferguson.

The Big Band genre at JMA also includes jazz influenced pop orchetra leaders such as Paul Whiteman, Glen Miller and the Dorsey Brothers. Modern big bands that are influenced by avant-garde music, 3rd stream music or other types of modern elements can be found in the Progressive Big Band genre.

big band top albums

Showing only albums and live's | Based on members ratings & JMA custom algorithm | 24 hours caching

CAB CALLOWAY Hi De Hi De Ho Album Cover Hi De Hi De Ho
CAB CALLOWAY
5.00 | 4 ratings
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BUDDY RICH Rich in London (aka Very Alive at Ronnie Scott's aka At Ronnie Scotts) Album Cover Rich in London (aka Very Alive at Ronnie Scott's aka At Ronnie Scotts)
BUDDY RICH
5.00 | 3 ratings
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BUDDY RICH No Funny Hats Album Cover No Funny Hats
BUDDY RICH
5.00 | 2 ratings
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BUDDY RICH The Man From Planet Jazz (aka Live at Ronnie Scott's) Album Cover The Man From Planet Jazz (aka Live at Ronnie Scott's)
BUDDY RICH
4.95 | 2 ratings
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DUKE PEARSON Introducing Duke Pearson's Big Band Album Cover Introducing Duke Pearson's Big Band
DUKE PEARSON
4.82 | 2 ratings
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BUDDY RICH Mercy, Mercy Album Cover Mercy, Mercy
BUDDY RICH
4.62 | 4 ratings
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BUDDY RICH Time Out Album Cover Time Out
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4.67 | 3 ratings
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STAN KENTON Adventures in Jazz Album Cover Adventures in Jazz
STAN KENTON
4.58 | 3 ratings
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STAN KENTON Standards in Silhouette Album Cover Standards in Silhouette
STAN KENTON
4.50 | 3 ratings
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QUINCY JONES This Is How I Feel About Jazz Album Cover This Is How I Feel About Jazz
QUINCY JONES
4.52 | 2 ratings
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THELONIOUS MONK The Thelonious Monk Orchestra at Town Hall Album Cover The Thelonious Monk Orchestra at Town Hall
THELONIOUS MONK
4.40 | 5 ratings
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DIZZY GILLESPIE A Portrait of Duke Ellington Album Cover A Portrait of Duke Ellington
DIZZY GILLESPIE
4.50 | 2 ratings
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This list is in progress since the site is new. We invite all logged in members to use the "quick rating" widget (stars bellow album covers) or post full reviews to increase the weight of your rating in the global average value (see FAQ for more details). Enjoy JMA!

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big band Music Reviews

DAVID ANGEL Out on the Coast

Album · 2021 · Big Band
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js
This week’s installment on jazz musicians who deserve more recognition goes to composer and arranger David Angel. As orchestrator Brad Dechter put it, “David Angel is quite possibly the best composer you have never heard of “. You may not know David by name, but you have probably heard his music in countless TV shows and movies including a long running gig on “Bonanza” that started when David was only 21. Along with his work as soundtrack composer and educator, David has also been running a big band rehearsal group out of Los Angeles since 1969. A remarkable number of big name artists have passed through that band including George Bohannon, Bud Shank, Bob Brookmeyer, Art Pepper, Victor Feldman and many more. Given how long Angel has been running this project it comes as a surprise that prior to this year Angel had only one album out as a leader. Long time associate and horn player Jim Self decided it was time to get more of Angel’s music out to the public so he organized this extensive recording project that resulted in the three CD, “Out on the Coast”.

David’s music is very west coast, with a typical track rolling along in a relaxed swing feel, but there is variety too with Latin numbers, waltzes, ballads and blues too. David’s forte is contrapuntal arranging in which intertwining voices twist around each other in kaleidoscope textures. These arrangements will often continue even while the soloists stretch out providing interesting tone colors to counter the solos. David cites French impressionists such as Ravel and Debussy as major influences, as well as early ‘cool’ proponents such as Gerry Mulligan and Gil Evans, and of course the Duke.

Most of these tracks are David Angel originals with a few covers thrown in as well. Of the originals, some standouts include a Quincy Jones sounding bluesy jam session called “Ah Rite” and “Out on the Coast 3” on which the two flutes melody recalls kitsch TV soundtrack music from the 60s. There are also several lengthy suite like numbers on which David displays his ability to bring different moods to one piece of music. Of the covers, Ellington’s “Prelude to a Kiss” features alto saxophonist Gene Cipriano channeling Johnny Hodges to make this one really come alive with the spirit of the Duke’s long running band. Also from the Ellington repertoire we get French horn soloist Stephanie O’Keefe doing an excellent job on Billy Stray horn’s “A Flower is a Lovesome Thing”.

DAN BONSANTI The 14 Jazz Orchestra : Cartoon Bebop

Album · 2021 · Big Band
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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.

HORIZONS JAZZ ORCHESTRA The Brite Side

Album · 2019 · Big Band
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Horizons Jazz Orchestra is a South Florida all-star big band that grew out of the remains of Lee Harris and Dennis Noday’s Superband. The last Superband album was supposed to be a tribute to Harris, their lead arranger and composer, but Lee passed away before the album could be finished and many of the band’s performers moved on to other projects. Trombonist Michael Balogh decided to finish the project by inviting some of his favorite musicians to join the remaining members of Superband thereby creating a new ensemble, Horizons Jazz Orchestra, and “The Brite Side” is their debut album. As mentioned earlier, this album is a tribute to Lee Harris and every track but one is either a Harris original composition or arrangement.

Horizons plays bright upbeat big band music with a 60s-70s pop leaning that may remind some of Quincy Jones, Maynard Ferguson and Thad Jones. Many of the band members have ties to the Stan Kenton Orchestra, so there is that influence as well. Several tracks have that Four Brothers/Woody Herman smooth sax section ensemble work which comes as no surprise since section leader Billy Ross played in the Herman band as well as with many top names in pop and RnB. Lots of instantly recognizable jazz favorites are performed here along side Harris’ originals which are easy to pick up on at first listen. The ensemble work is flawless and the solos are short and to the point, this is big band music that can easily be enjoyed by non-jazz fans and big band aficionados alike.

Some top cuts include the high energy of “After You’ve Gone, Finally” and “Fourth Dimension” which feature that smooth Woody Herman sax ensemble sound. Title track “The Brite Side” sounds like a movie soundtrack performed with a lengthy multi-sectioned 70s progressive rock arrangement and “the Sound” features a noir ballad vehicle for the tenor saxophone soloing of Billy Ross. “A Train Bossa” shows how well “Take the A Train” takes to a bossa nova rhythm and “Red Apple Sweet” is a soul jazz workout for the Hammond B3 playing of Gary Mayone.

DEODATO Artistry

Live album · 1974 · Big Band
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dreadpirateroberts
On ‘Artisry’ Deodato’s arrangements of classical covers (and his Latin, smooth jazz pieces too) are fleshed out by an orchestra and it’s great to hear them with extra depth compared to the studio recordings.

The sound is maybe a bit ‘warmer’ in a live setting and the band seem to be having a good time too, which I noticed on “St. Louis Blues” and “Superstrut” – especially John Tropea on guitar. Maybe the set list draws a little too heavily from ‘Deodato 2’ compared to what I’d hoped for but if you want a more comprehensive collection of live songs you might have to look to the latter stages of his discography.

BIG BEAT Sounds Good. Feels Good

Album · 2019 · Big Band
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js
Big Beat is a new big band originating from William Patterson University in New Jersey that also doubles as a hot horn driven RnB outfit with Allison McKenzie on vocals, plus when they break it down to the rhythm section, they are also an intense fusion combo that is not afraid to take things on an ‘outside’ trip. There is a lot of versatility at work here as each song on “Sounds Good Feels Good” displays a different side of the group. Although this is very much a modern ensemble, there is a healthy 70s style looseness to the group, as well as a similar open-minded approach to eclectic material.. It’s no surprise then that their playing often recalls other 70s big band leaders such as Thad Jones, Don Ellis and Gil Evans who embraced, fusion, RnB and experimentalism in wide open anything goes arrangements.

Allison McKenzie sings lead on seven of the nine tracks and she has the sort of range and versatility that should make her well known with or without her fellow band members. Her style easily shifts from jazz to RnB, making her the perfect vocal front person for this versatile group. Her solo voice is good enough, but occasionally she double tracks her voice into some very interesting harmonies and vocal arrangements. The two instrumental numbers give the band a chance to get crazy. On “Just Too Much”, Will Dougherty’s electric piano solo pushes drummer Joe Spinelli into some free form mayhem, and on “A Penny for Your Thoughts”, the band peaks with an aggressive hard rock drive topped with an equally intense electric trombone solo.

Four of the vocal numbers are McKenzie originals, and they hold up well against some classic covers composed by Stevie Wonder, Jill Scott and the Jackson 5. This band is just getting started, and if they can keep this together the future looks very bright as they hit a good balance between bring the party energy and complicated and challenging arrangements. I would imagine that this is a band best enjoyed in a live situation.

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