【The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra - Up From The Skies, Music of Jim McNeely】(2006) ★★★★☆


(English follows the Japanese)


The Vanguard Jazz Orchestraが全曲Jim McNeely氏の曲を演奏したアルバムです。勿論Jim McNeely氏もPianoを弾いています。本作はグラミー賞2部門にノミネートされました。Jim McNeely氏はいちピアニストと云うよりは、現在のBig Band Jazz界で最も優秀なComposer、Arrangerの一人ですね。私が大学生だった1980年代に"Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra"のビデオを観たんですが、メンバー紹介時にMel Lewis御大が、Jim McNeely氏だけ「Great、Jim McNeely!」と言っていたのを思い出します。勿論演奏は「Great!」でした。

本作ではJim McNeely氏の非常にオリジナリティーの高い曲・アレンジが堪能できます。タイトル曲はJimi HendrixのJazzyなナンバーからをビッグバンドアレンジしたもので、それ以外はJim氏のオリジナル曲。6/4拍子を軽快に熟すM2 "The Life of Riley"。全体に非常に高度なアレンジを実力者達が完璧に演奏しているという印象です。流石にホーン・セクションに「周りを聴ける人」が集まってますね。伸ばしの音の最後のビブラート、OpenとCloseによってしっかり波ができていること、八分音譜のSwingの幅等。アンサンブルが完璧です。 曲・アレンジが「辛口」の部類に入るのでしょうが、CD1枚まったく飽きずに聴かせるところは流石ですね。おまけに録音も優秀です。


 素晴らしいです!


(Personnel)
Jim McNeely: conductor, composer, arranger, piano
Nick Marchione, Frank Greene, Greg Gisbert, Scott Wendholt: trumpet
John Mosca, Luis Bonilla, Jason Jackson: trombone
Douglas Purviance: bass trombone
Dick Oatts, Billy Drewes: alto, soprano saxophone, flute
Rich Perry, Ralph LaLama: tenor saxophone, flute
Gary Smulyan: baritone saxophone, bass clarinet
Dennis Irwin: bass
John Riley: drums


1. Up From The Skies 
2. The Life Of Riley 
3. In This Moment 
4. Don't Even Ask 
5. Suite: Three Duos, Three Answers - Almost Always 
6. Hardly Ever
7. You Tell Me 
8. We Will Not Be Silenced


❑ Jim McNeely - Official Website
http://www.jim-mcneely.com/home.html

❑ Preview
https://itunes.apple.com/jp/album/up-from-skies-music-jim-mcneely/id280554873


❑ Buy CD
http://www.amazon.co.jp/From-Skies-Vanguard-Jazz-Orchestra/dp/B000GAKRSY/ref=sr_1_1?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1354791297&sr=1-1


[Reviews]
4 stars Downbeat Magazine “…It’s the latest demonstration that VJO is the most versatile and sophisticated jazz orchestra going.” --TED PANKEN – Downbeat – July, 2006

...McNeely and the VJO have struck a musical vein akin to gold... --JACK BOWERS – ALL ABOUT JAZZ, JUNE, 2006


"...the oldest, most successful big band of jazz’s postmodern era... --Will Friedwald—The New York Sun, April, 2006


On its fifth album since the passing of co-founder Mel Lewis in 1990, the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra turns for a second time to the music of Jim McNeely, the ensemble's pianist/composer in residence and one of the country's outstanding contemporary composer/arrangers. Even though his music has lost none of its resourcefulness or depth, this is a kinder, gentler, more lyrical and even-tempered McNeely than we've heard before, and the enterprise is all the better for it. The title selection, which opens the album, is a breezy Jimi Hendrix tune so smoothly arranged by McNeely that one could swear he or she were listening to Rob McConnell and the Boss Brass. There are more twists and turns in drummer John Riley's showpiece, "The Life of Riley, but the music remains quite accessible, and Riley moves seamlessly from brushes to sticks to wrest every shard of energy and emotion from McNeely's dancing chart. McNeely wrote the enchanting ballad "In This Moment, he says, "to capture on paper what came out of [his] hands in the moment of composition. What came out is simply gorgeous, as are the solos by McNeely and flugel Scott Wendholt. I don't know if it was planned that way, but it's nonetheless interesting that "Don't Even Ask!, written more than a dozen years ago when McNeely was a member of the Phil Woods Quintet, should precede the three-movement suite, One Question, Three Answers. "Ask! is an up-tempo romp featuring alto saxophonist Billy Drewes, with sharp supporting statements by McNeely and bassist Dennis Irwin. The suite runs for more than 25 minutes, and each of its movements headlines two soloists—trombonist John Mosca and baritone Gary Smulyan ("Almost Always ), trumpeter Greg Gisbert and alto Dick Oatts ("Hardly Ever ), tenors Rich Perry and Ralph LaLama ("You Tell Me ). "The listener, McNeely writes, "is invited to formulate an appropriate question. The closing number, "We Will Not Be Silenced, is a gossamer serenade that began life as a hymn and later became the third section of McNeely's September Tryptych, commissioned by the University of Connecticut Studio Orchestra. Perry and Smulyan share the solo honors. One of the more agreeable aspects of reviewing an album by the VJO is that one needn't appraise the orchestra itself—excellence there is a given—and can concentrate on the music, which in this case is invariably warm and delightful. In the past I've not always been moved by McNeely's sometimes pedantic compositional style, but everything here is lucid and beyond reproach. To state the case more plainly, McNeely and the VJO have struck a musical vein akin to gold, and Up from the Skies is worth its weight in that precious mineral.
- By JACK BOWERS, All About Jazz

In addition to his many other duties, Jim McNeely has been pianist and composer-in-residence for the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra (born as the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra) since his return to the band in 1996. Up From the Skies is the group’s second CD to feature his writing, which consists of seven originals plus his clever reworking of Jimi Hendrix’s title song. As usual, McNeely’s work is harmonically and texturally rich, the kind of music that offers something new on each listen. And as is normally the case, McNeely avoids big-band clichés in favor of inventive, sophisticated composition for jazz orchestra. The tracks run from seven and a half minutes to almost 10, with most at least eight minutes long—plenty of time to develop the potential of each piece. The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra has been in existence long enough that its high quality of performance is taken for granted. And it does render McNeely’s often-challenging charts as he must have intended. All the compositions feature improvisation, of course, with three of them written expressly to feature pairs of soloists. The level of the improvising is consistent with the level of the ensemble playing.
- By David Franklin, Jazz Time

The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra continues the tradition of excellence that was the core ingredient when it began life as the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra during the 1960s. Now led by pianist/conductor/composer/arranger Jim McNeely, the band brings life to his stimulating charts with tight ensembles and strong solos throughout the session. The first track is a bit of a surprise, a breezy jazz setting of rocker Jimi Hendrix's "Up from the Skies" that is a good bit more harmonically adventurous than the original record. The pianist's unusual blues "Life of Riley" showcases drummer John Riley and trombonist Luis Bonilla in a post-bop theme that constantly shifts into a new direction. His haunting ballad "In This Moment" has a melancholy air, with McNeely opening the work alone before giving way to Scott Wendholt's subdued but powerful flugelhorn. McNeely's three-part suite "One Question, Three Answers" features three tantalizing movements, with each one showcasing a pair of soloists. "Don't Even Ask" is a fluid post-bop vehicle featuring alto saxophonist Billy Drewes (one of Manhattan's first-call reedmen), McNeely and bassist Dennis Irwin, the latter in one of his last recordings with the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra before losing his fight with cancer in early 2008.

[Bio]
Jim McNeely was born in Chicago, and moved to New York City in 1975. In 1978 he joined the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra. He spent six years as a featured soloist with that band and its successor, Mel Lewis and the Jazz Orchestra (now The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra). 1981 saw the beginning of Jim's 4-year tenure as pianist/composer with the Stan Getz Quartet. From 1990 until 1995 he held the piano chair in the Phil Woods Quintet. At the present time, he leads his own tentet, his own trio, and he appears as soloist at concerts and festivals worldwide.Jim's reputation as composer/arranger and conductor for large jazz bands continues to flourish, and has earned him nine Grammy nominations. In 1996 he re-joined The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra as pianist and Composer-in Residence. He is also artist-in-residence with the Frankfurt Radio Big Band. Other recent work includes projects with the Danish Radio Big Band (where he was chief conductor for five years), the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, the Metropole Orchestra (Netherlands), the Swiss Jazz Orchestra, and the Stockholm Jazz Orchestra. The New York Times has called his writing "exhilarating"; DownBeat has said that his music is "eloquent enough to be profound".Jim has appeared as sideman on numerous recordings led by major artists such as Thad Jones, Mel Lewis, Stan Getz, Bob Brookmeyer, David Liebman, Art Farmer, Robert Watson, and Phil Woods. He has numerous albums under his own name. The latest is "Up from the Skies", with the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra on the Planet Arts label ("concert jazz at its headiest"—DownBeat) .Teaching is also an important element of Jim's work. He is Musical Director of the BMI Jazz Composers' Workshop. In addition, he is on the faculties of both The Manhattan School of Music and William Paterson University. He has appeared at numerous college jazz festivals as performer and clinician, and has been involved regularly with summer workshops such as the Jamey Aebersold Summer Jazz Clinics, the Lake Placid Seminar in Jazz Improvisation and the William Paterson University Summer Jazz Workshop. He has also done clinics and major residencies at dozens of institutions in the U.S., Canada, Europe, China, Australia. New Zealand, and Egypt.