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Instruments of Mass Pleasure

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Album Review

Instruments of Mass Pleasure is an insanely good album. The review can end there suitably. The Alex Budman Contemporary Jazz Orchestra is a fixture at Pearl's in San Francisco, with a sound at least somewhat similar to the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra. Here, they take on a series of what are primarily their own compositions with one or two other penned numbers thrown in. What one is struck by foremost, though, aside from any composition issues, is that this outfit has some incredible players built in. The album opens with some big band swing that hearkens to the advances of the big band around the '60s, but with more finesse than many of the older recordings could dream of. In "Samba in 7," the band evokes Dizzy Gillespie's Afro-Cuban big band perfectly, despite that not being the intention. Latin jazz appears to be a specialty as it's carried into the Corsican-inspired "Girolata," and then it's back to the powerful horn section and the piano prowess of composer Leonard Thompson in "Mood for a Time" and "Sidewave." Each tune and its arrangement highlights yet another point of strength for the band as it swoons and swerves from decadence to decadence. For contemporary orchestral jazz, there are a few up-and-comers to be heard, and a few older standard-playing outfits. This band has neither the rigidity of the old guard nor the naïveté of the new guard. It can emulate the old masters, but has a style all its own.

Instruments of Mass Pleasure, Alex Budman
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