This new release is subtitled "The Big Band Side of Andrew Neu," who according to his website "is one of the most exciting, multi-genre musicians today. He is well respected throughout the industry for his work as a saxophonist, woodwind player, arranger, composer, educator and recording artist." About this he says, "After rehearsing for years with these veteran LA studio musicians I'm thrilled to finally release this exciting and fun collection of modern big band music." He has some special guests to enliven the bright, brassy music here including trumpeters Randy Brecker, Rick Braun and Wayne Bergeron, saxophonists Bob Mintzer, Eric Marienthal and Gordon Goodwin, and bassist Brian Bromberg.
This is a strong, tight, swinging band whom play with nuance and heat. The opening "Juggernaut" has a jaunty rhythm, displays the crisp, buoyant quality of the band and the freshness of the arrangements. There are strong solos from trombonist Andrew Lippmann along with Neu's husky tenor sax. The rhythm section of pianist Andy Langham, guitarist Matt Hornbeck, bassist David Hughes and Jamey Tate provide a strong foundation with Tate also taking a solo here. The spicy "Zebrano," is a number that would seem to have get a Latin Dance floor full with Brecker featured with a fiery solo here along with Neu and Tate. Craig Fundyga guests on vibraphone on the title track with a prancing groove and muted trumpet in the opening choruses. It has a driving muted trumpet solo from Michael Stever preceding Fundyga's vibes solo with the horns framing his solo.
Neu's arrangement of "Body and Soul" is striking as it opens for a couple choruses at a ballad tempo before Langham's piano leads it into an Afro-Cuban mode and his solo is followed by Mintzer who sounds quite strong. Neu's lovely ballad, "My Neu" is a feature for Eric Marienthal's lovely alto sax solo, while Neu provides a wonderful orchestration for a lively performance of Cole Porter classic, "What Is This Thing Called Love," with memorable solos from Dan Kaneyuki on alto sax, trumpeter Stever and Neu. "Wasamba" is highlighted by Wayne Bergeron's adept trumpet, along with Brian Bromberg's fleet fingered piccolo bass.
The tenor sax of Gordon Goodwin is featured on a crisply played "Too Much of a Good Thing," while Rick Braun's mix of lyricism and heat is heard on Ennio Morricone's marvelous "Cinema Paradiso" on which Neu is also heard. After a lively "Blue Sesame" with a heated muted trumpet solo from Jeff Jarvis, there is a spirited "Alpha Dog," with Brian Bromberg adding a funky electric bass solo, along nice high register work from Anthony Bonsera on trumpet and Tate's drum solo to close this recording. Neu's compositions, arrangements and the strong ensemble work behind the excellent soloists result in a terrific, hard swinging big band recording.
I received my review copy from a publicist. This review originally appeared in the March-April 2018 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 377). His website is https://www.andrewneu.com/. Here is
"Juggernaut" from the album.