Jamie Begian / Jamie Begian Big Band

Big Fat Grin

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In the realm of modern progressive big bands, Jamie Begian -- like his peer Mike Holober -- has synthesized several neo-bop-based New York City traditions removed from the legendary Gil Evans, Thad Jones/Mel Lewis, and the acclaimed Maria Schneider. Begian's charts are sleek and shiny, somewhat carved from dark walnut or cherry wood, and showing rounded, contemporary corners that blend, ebb, and flow, completely pleasing to the ears. Help from lesser-known but no less talented Big Apple performers keeps the music for the most part in check, in control, and very tuneful even when developing multi-layered charts and fully flowered melodic ideas. The sophistication and high-class values that Begian holds dear manifest in layers of sound from the 17-piece ensemble on the delightful "Funky Coffee," reminiscent of predecessors like Bob Mintzer or the Brecker Brothers collaborations with the German WDR Big Band. But then the game changes, with a klezmer-funk "Halay" retaining the excellent symmetry of the band. There's a bit of mystery, chamber-like sounds, and free improv to legit jazz swing on the title track, while the developed four-part suite "Tayloration" highlights the excellent trombone section, featuring the renowned Deborah Weisz, lesser-known Jeff Bush, and bass trombonist Max Siegel. Begian and Bruce Arnold add guitar licks sparingly, as bassist David Ambrosio holds down the bottom end with his lithe, substantive bass work. As the Innova label specializes in 21st century contemporary music removed from jazz, this is a nice addition to their catalog, and should be embraced by those who understand that the big band is far from dead.

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