A fixture at Jazz At Pearls in San Francisco every Monday night for over a decade, The Contemporary Jazz Orchestra led by saxophonist/bandleader, Alex Budman, have just released their first studio album entitled Instruments Of Mass Pleasure. The group has three previous live recordings to their credit, the latest being Monday In The City released in 2002. The band hails from the San Francisco bay area and is comprised of local professional musicians that are every bit a part of the talent rich West Coast big band jazz scene that produces some of the best big band music in the world. A listen to Instruments Of Mass Pleasure will convince you that this ensemble is bound to make more than a ripple in the industry and garnish some well deserved acclaim.
The album is a nine track CD of originals and standards performed in a mainstream modern big band style. Budman penned two of the cuts and wrote the arrangements for six numbers. The opener "In Case Of Emergency" is somewhat of a progressive piece that packs a punch. It is a lively and upbeat tune that features Budman on alto sax. "Little Prayer" is a slower down tempo piece with some fine piano work by Leonard Thompson that really picks up about six minutes into the number to make a big band musical statement. "Samba In 7" is a Brazilian flavored cut written by bassist Lorenzo Farell that showcases the talents of Mike Olmos on flugelhorn.
"Girolata" is an electrifying Latin jazz number with a lot of brass punctuated by the sultry sax play of Tod Dickow on tenor. This is a great percussive and shoulder moving cut where the congas, played by Jesus Diaz, takes center stage in what turns out to be a fun Latin jazz ensemble piece. The band slows down the pace on the Budman tune "Mood For A Time" a nice mellow sound that includes a beautiful flugelhorn chorus. "Sidewave," another Thompson composition, is one of the true swinging big band charts that spot lights the powerful trumpet of Joel Behrman in a classic big band style.
"When We Walked In The Sun" and "The Croxmont Jive" are two melodic numbers similar in texture and tempo and are very fine tracks. "Ballad For Benny," a tribute to Benny Goodman and written by Oliver Nelson, is a slow moving ballad which finds Budman caressing the clarinet and guiding the band through the layers of high notes on a wonderful finale.
In appraising this album, I would have to give it high marks for the musical content that delivers exciting solos, engaging charts and a blockbuster performance by a first-rate orchestra deserving of recognition as one of the finest ensembles in the business today. Instruments Of Mass Pleasure provides some very pleasurable big band music that enthusiast of the genre will truly enjoy.