Moving quickly toward the front of the line of big bands playing modern music for large aggregations, Dave Eshelman's Jazz Garden Big Band's second release and first for the Sea Breeze label concentrates on a play list of Eshelman compositions, less two. One of the non-originals, "In a Sentimental Mood," is also one of the gems of the session, as it is a vehicle for guest solist Joe Henderson and his one-of-a-kind tenor sax. The presence of Henderson would by itself make this one of the album's stellar tracks. But there's icing on the cake with some moving trombone and piano by Eshelman and Smith Dobson, respectively. The other standard on the program, "Softly As in a Morning Sunrise," shows a debt to Stan Kenton in its voicing and arrangement. All the charts were prepared by Eshelman and they reveal a strong feel for the kind of modern music which can best fit a big band conceived to present music in the modern vein. Eshelman's works keep this large instrumental group alive and interesting without having to resort to traditional and oft-heard big band charts of the 1930s and 1940s, or even from the later Count Basie bands. "Deep Voices Part 1: Open Sea" and "Deep Voices Part II: Bright Water" are based on the sounds of the blue and humpback whales, the jazz counterpart to classical composer Alan Hovhaness' "And God Created Great Whales." Eshelman's works are more structured and moving than the classical composer's, who used tapes of whales "singing" as part of his work. With their outstanding ensemble work and first flight solos, Dave Eshelman's Jazz Garden Big Band are in the vanguard of top musical aggregations playing modern music for large groups on the jazz scene. Recommended.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Dave Nathan