With classic definitions of jazz being challenged daily by borrowings from other musical genres, those disposed to enjoy big bands or jazz orchestras will welcome An American Garden by David Tofani. His previous CD, the Grammy-nominated Manhattan Carnival, introduced many of Tofani's original compositions to an unknowing public, and this set further showcases his depth as a composer and soloist. Although usually associated with and known primarily for great session work, motion picture soundtracks, and consistent performances, the award-winning saxophonist plays seven deeply compelling original jazz compositions accompanied by some of New York City's finest musicians. Inspired by his father's penchant for gardening, the opening track is a big band composition that features Tofani's lush arrangements and a lively solo delivered with melodiousness and spontaneous inventions. His propensity for crafting well-arranged tunes, not to mention the great string orchestration by Torrie Zito, adds up to an agreeable listen on "New York at Night." Dave Tofani blows his heart out on this moody ballad that has the potential to become a great jazz standard. This is saxophone mastery radiating at its best. He seamlessly segues between differing rhythmic feels and features plenty of interplay. In contrast, instrumentals such as "Quintetto di Flauti" charts Tofani on a quintet of flutes: two C flutes with piccolo, two alto flutes, and bass flute, with rhythm section. This is an amazing showcase of a deep-toned alto flute solo, then a solo for bass flute in unison with acoustic bass. The playing is exquisite. However, the high points on the CD are Tofani's tribute to his late wife -- "High Mowing Orchestral Suite" -- an expanded composition for soprano saxophone solo and string orchestra with rhythm section; and "Liberte," a composition for ten woodwind instruments on which Tofani performs all ten woodwind parts on saxophones, clarinets, and flutes. This is a great CD and one any real enthusiast of big bands or jazz orchestras should have in their collection.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Paula Edelstein