Jimmy Heath / Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra

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After a guest spot with the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra in 2001, longtime sax player Jimmy Heath went back to work at Queens College. Letting a few years pass, the SRJO came back with a commission -- an attempt to create new music for the older structured form of big-band jazz. The result was a three-part tour de force of harmony that manages to showcase the formidable horns of Seattle individually without simply resorting to solos. This is one of the key differences between the movers in the realm of modern big band and those who simply rehash the traditions -- the emphasis on individual voices and their interplay beyond the requisite solos. Though there's a core of almost ambient trombones and sax riffs, the instruments move out of their swooning, swerving lines to attack other musical elements regularly. Along with the outstanding set from (and featuring) Heath, the album throws in a bonus with live recordings of "Haitian Love Song" (which uses the deeper horns incredibly) and "Creole Love Song" (which brings the big-band aesthetic back to its roots, but uses Ellington's composition to highlight individuals yet again). There's a smoothness to any big-band recording, but the SRJO, especially with Heath at the compositional helm, falls into the realm of Tadd Dameron more than Lawrence Welk. This is outstanding music with a bevy of fine musicians behind it.

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