Pianist/composer/arranger Scott Gwinnell leads his big band through a set of sophisticated and swinging jazz numbers on 2009's Brush Fire. A fixture on the Detroit jazz scene as the house band at Cliff Bell's jazz club, Scott Gwinnell Jazz Orchestra is a stellar ensemble rooted in the tradition of the progressive big band sound. Which is to say that although the SGJO can swing like Count Basie in 1960, the band also features a handful of forward-thinking and creative improvisors with a bent toward modal post-bop. To these ends, such SGJO players as saxophonist Carl Cafagna and trumpeter Justin Walter bring the heat on their solo turns on "Crossroads" and "Tenor of the Conversation" respectively. Similarly, such cover tunes as Horace Silver's funky "Sister Sadie" and "Gregory Is Here" are superbly crafted numbers that benefit from inspired solo turns by saxophonists James Hughes and Steve Wood as well as euphonium slinger Brad Felt. However, rather than simply revisiting roadworn classics, Gwinnell brings his unique approach to the big-band sound with five solid original numbers. Cuts like the propulsive title-track opener and the evocative mid-album "The Sleeping Bear" reveal Gwinnell's knack for crafting memorable melodic songs that leave plenty of room for searching improvisational sections.
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AllMusic Review by Matt Collar