Though jazz erupted as a Black reaction to Western classical music, an idiosyncratic mode of brilliant thinking from a hideously downtrodden culture within a culture, it's real ambition has always been to take the old days quite a few steps further, even to the extent of neoclassicalism, something clearly heard in Stan Kenton, Anthony Davis, and others—even Sun Ra and Anthony Braxton, depending on how far you're willing to grant the styles their head—as color lines broke down and intellects took over ever more succinctly. Well, Bob Brookmeyer, as celebrated as he was, was another of the ilk and, to my mind, never properly lauded…until now. This A-Bomb of a CD by The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra not only elegizes and pays homage to the trombonist-composer but vividly re-imbues his work with the vivacity it once again well deserves. It's not possible that anyone else could have tackled the task so dauntingly.
Brookmeyer understood, as do all jazz musos whether they show it in their recorded work or not, the lovely chaos lying at the heart of the creative juices, and he blent it with tradition in an unerring hand. OverTime is masterminded by Dick Oatts, the music director in the project, and it's like he reached into Bob's grave (Brookmeyer passed in 2011 at age 81) and ripped out the gentleman's still beating heart, with even Brookmeyer looking on in wonder as the disc progresses, saying "Whoa! Bitchin'! Did I do THAT?!?!" The solos throughout are superb, each and every one of them, the backing big band as sonorous as a Stravinsky movement, as gentle as a Satie pensée, or as blustery and chaotic as one of Butch Morris' beautifully arresting insanity blurts, everything depending on which is apropos to the moment.
The recording's crystal clear, not a note occluded, the constantly shifting temperaments brazen and unalloyed. As the band, many of them Brookmeyer orchestra alumni, has noted, their leader's very first and constantly overriding instruction was always "You guys have to be better". A bit harsh perhaps, but, lord, what that elicited! This ensemble stands with the very best ever, and if you, dear reader, may have fallen for the unspoken social line that big band music froze in the 50s, you have a hellaciously huge surprise in store. Compositions like XYZ could alone form an entire course in modern songsmithing in the classicalist wing of a university. That, I'm guessing, was Oatts' and the band's real purpose beyond sheer exuberance and aesthetic wont, and when you reach the end of the repertoire, reaching to replay it again, you'll know exactly what I'm saying.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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