Chuck Israels directs the National Jazz Ensemble on this collection of three fine LPs recorded in 1975 and 1976. The repertory ensemble plays 16 compositions that are a testament to the group's technical, creative, and orchestral excellence. Included are such classics as Count Basie's "Every Tub," which was written in 1938. The ensemble plays it as an archetypical riff arrangement, loosely structured and full of trademarks from the Basie band of the period. Also included is Jelly Roll Morton's "Black Bottom Stomp," written in 1926 and music that still expresses itself directly to the listener today. The National Jazz Ensemble undertakes everything from early Ellington through Bill Evans with the utmost sense of improvisational styles from earlier jazz periods, while employing solos and accompaniment that are more recent to ourselves. Horace Silver's "Room 608" is driving and solidly structured, while "Solar Complexes," written by Chuck Israels, is based on the chord changes and some melodic ideas structured in alternating sections for soloist and ensemble. Overall, this is a tightly orchestrated version of some of America's most innovative music that has stood the test of time.
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AllMusic Review by Paula Edelstein