Friday, November 11, 2016

Dick Oatts/Mats Holmquist New York Jazz Orchestra
A Tribute To Herbie +1
Summit/Mama Records

Dick Oatts/Mats Holmquist New York Jazz Orchestra is a band comprised of some of the finest New York players along with several distinguished Scandinavian players. Oatts is a lead player and artistic director of the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra while Holmquist currently serves as Artistic Director for the JZ All Star Big Band in Shanghai. Holmquist suggested a big band tribute to Herbie Hancock and with John Mosca's expertise as contractor and lead trombone to bring together a formidable cast of musicians that include Walt Weiskopf on tenor saxophone, Frank Basile on Baritone saxophone, Joe Magnarelli on trumpet, and Adam Birnbaum on piano. Holmquist provided all the arrangements on this as well as contributed an original, "Stevie R," reflected in the "+1" in the recording's title, "A Tribute To Herbie +1."

These are some impressive interpretations of some of Hancock's iconic compositions including "Cantaloupe Island," "Chameleon," "Dolphin Dance," "Maiden Voyage" and "Watermelon Man." Influenced by minimalist composer Steve Reich, Holmquist which he describes in his arrangement of Chameleon." "In :Chameleon," I use a technique inspired by Steve Reich's famous composition "Drumming," starting with one note, adding one more, and another one, etc., until the thread of notes becomes a whole musical phrase." On this number he changes tempos as well as recompose and reharmonizes the theme with tenor solos from Walt Weiskopf and Robert Nordmark standing out. Oatts on soprano sax and pianist Birnbaum are featured on "Dolphin Dance," while the uptempo "Eye of the Hurricane," has blistering trumpet from Joe Magnarelli, along with hot tenor sax from Weiskopf, soprano sax from Oatts and a drum solo from John Riley. Magnarelli is featured with on "Stevie R.," Holmquist's original which also illustrates his construction of complexity from simple elements, and again on the marvelous "Maiden Voyage" with more marvelous trumpet and soprano sax, while there is a playfulness in the reworking of "Watermelon Man" that showcases Weiskopf's tenor sax and Basile's baritone sax along with some terrific support from the rhythm section.

Herbie Hancock's music has produced some of the most compelling performances of the past half century, particularly under his own name. The marvelous music on "A Tribute To Herbie +1," reflects the freshness that Hancock's music along with the marvelous Holmquist arrangements and superb playing of the Oatts/Holmquist Big Band.

I received from a publicist. This review originally appeared in the September-October Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 368).

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