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New York Composers Orchestra: New York Composers Orchestra

Album Notes

The NYCO is a major gathering of musicians from the downtown cum Knitting Factory scene peppered with boomer veterans to present some powerful, original, creative modern jazz, highly composed charts, and improvised overtones. Well-known real-time players as participants are saxophonist/clarinetist Marty Ehrlich, baritone saxophonist Jimmy Cozier, tenor saxophonist Doug Wieselman, alto saxophonist Cleave E. Guyton Jr., alto and flute man Robert DeBellis, french horn players Tom Varner and Vincent Chancey, trombonists Art Baron and Ray Anderson, trumpeters Herb Robertson, Lesli Dalaba and Steve Bernstein, guitarist Stewart Cutler, keyboardists Wayne Horvitz and Robin Holcomb, bassist Lindsey Horner, and drummer Bobby Previte. David Hofstra guests on electric bass or tuba for two of the 11 cuts written by various members. In their most impressive music and commanding performances, the multi-layered, bottom-heavy swinging groove of "Prodigal Son Revisited" is a juggernaut monster based on a riff by Horvitz. Staccato skittering and a good swinging waltz beat informs the Ehrlich chart "After All" with the composer's alto and Robertson trading off in the bridge of this grandiose chart deserving of a wow! Also from Ehrlich's pen is the familiar "Pliant Plaint," a good swinging hard groove with horn outbursts exploding everywhere like fireworks, Anderson's piquant "bone sparkling in the midst of this aurora borealis." Two suites are included. Holcomb's "Nightbirds: Open 24 Hours" starts serene with repeated aviary lines and frequent calmed, soaring motions, then clarion brass, Cecil Taylor-like banging, and a romping collective attitude sliding to modal ethereality, while jump lines and elephantine cries conclude the full day in the forest. "The House That Brings a Smile" is dedicated to the late keyboardist of the Band, Richard Manuel, via the writing of Horvitz. A processional, funereal dirge, marimba samples in cartoonish or Steve Reich-like backdrop, and a much darker, pensive theme with Ehrlich's bass clarinet defining distinct segments. A smaller, nonet version of the band with Hofstra does the ever bluesy "Fever" quite cool and slinky, a little tart sweet, as it is Anderson who has really got the fever in this solo, and Cutler's stinging guitar inspires some wonderful multi-layered and counterpointed lines in the bridge prior to a 7/4 coda. One-note left-hand and right-hand mezzo piano chords from Holcomb contrast blasting, punchy, provocative, or meditative horns on the appropriately titled piece "With the Hammer Down," Cutler's alien electronic enhancements reaching skyward. There's also an evocative "The Montana Section" from Wieselman inspired by the wafting, spirit calling, swelling in intensity and density, yet minimalist winds of Montana, and the two-minute snippet postscript closer "Interlude" with calliope circus pulse à la Kurt Weill or Carla Bley. A continually revelatory and consuming CD from start to finish, on first or repeated listenings, this is not only an auspicious debut for the NYCO all stars, but sure to be a tough act to follow, likely to be accomplished considering the extraordinarily high level of musicianship contained here. Highly recommended. ~ Michael G. Nastos


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