So I'm diggin' the whole Andy Warhol vibe especially coming from the cover of a big band release. Pop-Culture Blues with the Michael Treni Big Band is not the typical big band sound your grandfather grew up with. Treni is far from a newbie but is a key player in the continued development of large ensemble improvisational music or big band.
A somewhat conceptual spin involving the historical aspect of the blues as an integral part in post World War II American jazz is the underlying theme along with the reinforcement of the soul that has been placed in the jazz witness protection program and has been sorely lacking in the compositions of big band music over the last fifty years. Much like the blues, the rumors of the death of big band are greatly exaggerated.
Pop-Culture Blues is an imaginative and incredibly well thought out 10-movement suite that includes cameos from some heavy hitters including rising trumpet star Freddie Hendrix and saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi who is featured on the opening track "One For Duke" and complete with just the right amount of swag, Bergonzi takes flight on this Duke Ellington inspired number. Another smoker finds "BQE Blues" recalling the days of the great Count Basie and his power house New Testament band. The versatility of this number alone is mind blowing and eerily reminiscent of the great Thad Jones / Mel Lewis bands. "Summer Blues" has saxophonist Bergonzi team up with trumpet phenom Freddie Hendrix whose musical resume includes Rufus Reid, Wynton Marsalis and Lou Donaldson.
Michael Treni walked away from jazz back in the late 80's to pursue other interests only to return a decade later. Since 2007, Treni has been cranking out some of the better big band arrangements to wide spread critical acclaim with Pop-Culture Blues sure to follow suit.
A 4 star release with the qualification that with each subsequent spin this release becomes more ingrained in your soul. Entertaining, inventive and wildly addictive this is a big band release well worth the experience!
Tracks: One For Duke; BQE Blues; Minor Blues; Bluesy Bossa; More Than 12 Blues; Summer Blues; Blues In Triplicate; Mr. Funk Blues; Smokin' Blues; Pop-Culture Blues.
Personnel: Bill Ash: trumpet & flugelhorn; Jerry Bergonzi: soprano & tenor sax (1,6,7,9); Charles Blenzig: piano (2,3,4,5,8,10); Vinnie Cutro: trumpet; Rick Dekovessey: percussion (4,8); Nathan Ecklund: trumpet (lead); Frank Elmo: tenor sax, alto flute & clarinet; Bob Ferrel: trombone & buccin trombone; Freddie Hendrix: trumpet & flugelhorn (6,7); Ken Hitchcock: tenor sax, alto flute & clarinet; Philip Jones: bass trombone & tuba; Joe Labelle: guitar (2,4,8); Roy Nicolosi: baritone saxophone, bass clarinet & clarinet; Takashi Otsuka: bass; Chris Persad: trumpet (all except 6 & 7); Joe Petrizzo: trombone (lead); Jim Ridl: piano (1,6,7,9); Sal Spicola: alto sax (lead) & flute; Michael Treni: trombone; Ron Vincent: drums; Craig Yaremko: alto sax, flute & alto flute.