Ken Schaphorst Big Band

After Blue

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Musical ideologues are a lot like political ideologues; they're so rigid and militantly dogmatic in their belief system that they inevitably turn themselves into laughable clich├ęs and cartoon characters. Jazz has plenty of ideologues -- the holier-than-thou bop snob who is stuck in 1955, the free jazz extremist who equates all inside playing with selling out, the Dixieland elitist who insists that swing was jazz's downfall and that only a '10s or '20s style of improvisation is valid. And then there are the sensible jazzmen like bandleader/arranger Ken Schaphorst, who realizes that various approaches have their place and that there isn't any one "correct" way of playing jazz -- a philosophy he obviously shares with saxophonist Russ Gershon, founder of Accurate Records and leader of Boston's Either/Orchestra. In 1991, Schaphorst recorded his first Accurate release After Blue, a memorable big-band date that is dominated by his own compositions and underscores his willingness to draw on a variety of sources for inspiration. Duke Ellington has affected Schaphorst's bandleading/arranging style -- one of the few non-originals is a colorful arrangement of Ellington's "Warm Valley" -- but so have Sun Ra, Oliver Nelson, and Charles Mingus. Some of the playing is lyrical; some of it is abstract. And even though After Blue favors an acoustic post-bop orientation, Schaphorst has no problem letting guitarist John Dirac (one of the featured soloists) incorporate some fusion and rock influence here and there. The bottom line is that Schaphorst is no dogmatist; he believes in keeping his options open, and that perspective serves him well on After Blue -- which isn't his most essential release but was still an enjoyable way for him to begin his association with Accurate.

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