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Up from the Skies - Music of Jim McNeely

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Album Review

The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra continues the tradition of excellence that was the core ingredient when it began life as the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra during the 1960s. Now led by pianist/conductor/composer/arranger Jim McNeely, the band brings life to his stimulating charts with tight ensembles and strong solos throughout the session. The first track is a bit of a surprise, a breezy jazz setting of rocker Jimi Hendrix's "Up from the Skies" that is a good bit more harmonically adventurous than the original record. The pianist's unusual blues "Life of Riley" showcases drummer John Riley and trombonist Luis Bonilla in a post-bop theme that constantly shifts into a new direction. His haunting ballad "In This Moment" has a melancholy air, with McNeely opening the work alone before giving way to Scott Wendholt's subdued but powerful flugelhorn. McNeely's three-part suite "One Question, Three Answers" features three tantalizing movements, with each one showcasing a pair of soloists. "Don't Even Ask" is a fluid post-bop vehicle featuring alto saxophonist Billy Drewes (one of Manhattan's first-call reedmen), McNeely and bassist Dennis Irwin, the latter in one of his last recordings with the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra before losing his fight with cancer in early 2008.


Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Nobody bothered to tell Thad Jones and Mel Lewis that big-band jazz wasn’t viable in the modern era, because they started one of the most successful modern jazz orchestras from the ‘60s onward. The Jones/Lewis was a thriving concern until Jones’s 1979 departure, and then Lewis took the helm until his death in 1990. Pianist and composer Jim McNeely then became nominal chief/director. While they indeed keep the roaring sound of the Jones/Lewis...
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Up from the Skies - Music of Jim McNeely, The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra
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  • €7.92
  • Genres: Jazz, Music
  • Released: 01 January 2006

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