PERSONNEL: Steve Wilson, Jay Brandford, Rob Middleton, Adam Kolker, Terry Goss (saxophones) Seneca Black, Nathan Eklund, Dave Smith, Andy Gravish (trumpets) Tim Sessions, Matt McDonald, Matt Haviland, Max Seigel (trombones) Roberta Piket (piano) Todd Coolman (bass) Andy Watson (drum set) Scott Reeves (conductor, alto trombone)
SET LIST: Aquas De Marcos (Jobim), Knepper, All or Nothing at All (Altman, Lawrence), Incandesence, Soulful Mr. Williams, 3 n’ 2, Speak Low (Weill), Last Call, Ju Ju (Shorter), Without a Trace, Something for Thad (all composition by Reeves except where indicated)
HIGHLIGHTS: Reeves’s original composition “Last Call” was a surprising, raucous feature for the lowest instruments in the band and a vehicle for Seneca Black’s playful plunger-muted trumpet.
Trombonist and composer Scott Reeves has been quietly advocating for live big band music in New York City for years now. As curator for the invaluable Monday night big band series at Sir D’s Lounge, he provides an amicable venue for burgeoning composers to present their music. As a faculty member of the City College of New York, he has educated and inspired a young crowd of enthusiastic jazz musicians. And as bandleader of the Scott Reeves Jazz Orchestra, he manages to regularly corral a group of the city’s most flexible musicians for concerts and recordings.
Monday night’s concert began with a clever arrangement of a less-common Antonio Carlos Jobim tune, “Aquas De Marcos,” featuring flutes and clarinets in the woodwind section. Alto saxophonist Jay Brandford’s understated, melodic solo reminded me why he has been a top-call big band saxophonist for decades. The following hard-bop swinger, “Knepper,” set the tone for the rest of the night. Reeves and crew dispense with complexity in favor of subtle charts that groove, allowing for relaxed and engaged interaction amongst the ensemble.
These jazz veterans don’t shy away from odd time signatures, though. Reeves’s original composition “Incandescence,” full of complex, Liebman-esque harmony over a slow 5/4 groove, proved a wonderful vehicle to showcase Steve Wilson’s soprano saxophone. Wilson leads the pack of woodwind doublers in New York, playing with Maria Schneider, Christian McBride, and Chick Corea, to name only a few of his long list of employers. It says a lot that first-call musicians like him are willing to do a late-night gig for tips and drinks just to get to play Reeves’ music.
The evening culminated in an unusual arrangement of Wayne Shorter’s “Ju Ju.” Reeves’ arranging student at City College, John Pattitucci, provided him with the current lead-sheet that Wayne’s quartet plays in the modern era. Reeves based his arrangement on this newer, more daring version, giving tenor saxophonist Rob Middleton ample material to flex his modern jazz muscles.
— by Brian Krock