Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Dave Lalama Big Band The Hofstra Project Lalama Music 2013

Another Big Band release? Once again preconceived notions and running out of coffee are a critics Achilles heel. One of my biggest pet peeves is the notion of an artist or even a large ensemble that is so mired in the academic side of their work that the passion is pushed aside and often simply overlooked. The irony to the academic side of my irritation is that all the members of The Dave Lalama Big Band have a personal connection to Hofstra University. O.K. so the tunes must be fairly predictable and include Duke Ellington, Count Basie, McCoy Tyner etc...Wrong again!

The tunes are somewhat of an eclectic mix from artists including Joe Henderson, Charles Mingus, and Sonny Rollins. Some more standard tunes are tossed in for fun. So why does this release work so well? The three words that can sum this release up best are "passion", "fire", and "ice." The chemistry of such a large ensemble comes screaming through your speakers. The band has the ability to go from foot to the floor to dialing the dynamics down in a heartbeat. Dave Lalama is currently Professor of Music at Hofstra and is a founding member of the prestigious Manhattan School of Music Jazz Program. I heard numerous college oriented big band performances at the Jen Conference here in Louisville in 2012 and to be honest with the exception of one, they all sounded sanitized for your protection. The big band here is comprised of Hofstra alumni, faculty and some special guest artists. The goal for this particular release was to walk that fine musical tightrope between improvisational freedom while embracing the past 28 years of Jazz Art Music-making and mission accomplished.

The Joe Henderson tune "Inner Urge" features solos from Dave Pietro on alto and John Marshall on tenor saxophone. Shifting meter in harmonious synergy with a group dynamic and brilliant solo work capture the Henderson tune in a new dimension. A great many big bands can play the notes but can not make the music. The Dave Lalama Big Band proves with this tune alone they are in fact the real deal. Pietro lays down some intense and adventurous alto work only to be matched by Marshall every step of the way. Swing hard or go home has always been my motto, nice to hear it in action. "Pent-Up House" is a well known but rarely played Sonny Rollins tune where we find solos from Tony Tedesco on drums, Dave Pietro makes another appearance on alto, Pete Coco shows his lyrical chops while John Mosca turns in a smoker on trombone. Perfectly articulated this is an arrangement the great Sonny Rollins would in all likely hood be thrilled with. There are no reharms here that mangle the melody beyond recognition but instead great care and respect is shown to keep the musical integrity in tact while allowing the musicians to have fun with their own artistic sense of self. "Duke Ellington's Sound of Love" from Charles Mingus again features Pietro on alto and something tells me Dave Pietro is a name to remember.

I've been besieged with Big Band recordings as of late, most having a razor thin difference in sound and presentation. The Dave Lalama Big Band has spirit and is more than a large ensemble but an artistic celebration of the music that was and the music that has yet to come. Incredibly entertaining and an easy 4 out of 5 stars!

Tracks: Full House; Where Are You; No Evidence; Duke Ellington's Sound Of Love; Inner Urge; Pent-Up House; Moody's Mood; St. Thelonious; Tricotism; The Song Isn't You; The Peacocks; Blues For...; Evansville.

Personnel: Dave Lalama: piano; Pete Coco: bass; Tony Tedesco: drums; Saxophones: Dave Pietro: lead alto, soprano and flute; Jonathan Holford: alto; Ralph Lalama: tenor sax; John Marshall: tenor sax; Jeff Lange: baritone sax; Trumpets/Flugelhorns: Leon Petruzzi (lead); Mike Rubenstein (lead on "Inner Urge"; Glenn Drewes (3,5,6,7,9,10,11,13); Nathan Warner: (1,2,4,8,12); Mike Warner; Trombones: John Mosca (lead); Brent Chiarello; Joey DeVassy: Justin Comito: bass.