Big Band-It


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Italy's Big Band-It is an 18-piece, swinging-for-the-fences jazz orchestra, augmented -- usually, and certainly here -- by three or four guest players. That said, they don't follow any of the usual big-band schemas in the attempt to realize -- or create from scratch -- the subtleties of (mainly) American jazz composition. This set begins with Kenny Wheeler's gorgeous "Mouse in the Dairy," with its elongated chordal melody and striated soprano saxophone melody. As the horns build intricate harmonic catwalks above it, the rhythm section seeks to bring it out and let it soar. On Bob Mintzer's "Elvin's Mambo" composition, rhythms crisscross and highlight cut-and-run brass figures. Trumpets and trombones carry the melody in staggered choruses while the reeds color the backdrop in fuchsia! Perhaps the two finest moments here are realizations of works never meant to be played in a large-band setting: Pat Metheny's "It's Just Talk" and Miles Davis' "All Blues." On the former, a softly shimmering samba beat is slipped under a muted horn and keyboard melody line as saxophones and trombones glitter in, flitting about in the counterpoint alternate lyric. The guitar effect is covered by trumpets and saxes that alternate as they switch from one figure to another in the cascading intervals. On the Miles classic, the band quite simply shows its propensity for in-the-cut swinging. Big Band-It can punch the gutbucket as hard as anyone and still remain a nuanced orchestra -- their arrangement brings out not only the modal edge on the blues that Miles did in a sextet setting, but also the funk inherent in the harmonic changes. This is a solid date that reveals how deep the Italian understanding is of the American form. In fact, in so many ways, the members of Big Band-It go further than their American counterparts in their interpretations, because they take nothing for granted.

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