The Contemporary Jazz Orchestra is a 16-piece ensemble comprised of many of San Francisco's Bay area top notch jazz musicians playing the charts from some of the best composers and arrangers in the modern big-band tradition. The band is a fixture at Jazz at Pearl's in San Francisco from where Monday in the City was recorded live in December 2001 and released in 2002 under the direction of sax man Alex Budman, the band's leader and producer.
Monday in the City is the group's third live recording with their first studio album currently in progress. I've heard a lot of modern big bands and I must say that this collection of professionals can really cook a tune and play the mellow chords with the best of them! With a brass section that includes from four to six saxes, four to five trumpets at a time and four trombones, no wonder the music you hear is delivered with the power and punch of a full TNT based explosive orchestra. This is one very enjoyable recording from top to bottom. The band is tight and in the repertoire played on this CD, you'll hear great solo's from the sax, trumpet, piano and drums.
This CD contains nine tracks with compositions from Thad Jones, Duke Ellington, McCoy Tyner, Kenny Dorham, Oliver Nelson and the group's own piano man, Matt Clark. The first number, Passion Dance, is a Tyner writing rearranged for the big band style which features the amazing piano playing of Matt Clark, the cool tenor sax of Gene Burkert and the lively rhythm drums of Andrew Eberhard. A Penthouse Dawn is an absolutely beautiful Oliver Nelson ballad slow and mellow that tingles your soul with an emotion and feeling wonderfully expressed through the alto sax playing of Charles McNeal. Minor's Holiday is a head bopping catchy tune with a solo by lead trumpet man Mike Olmos, another riff by Burkert and backed up by the entire brass section of the band. As Minor's Holiday ends, the playing continues and leads right into Interlude, a short but sweet little number that is all Matt Clark on piano. Wow! can this guy play. Interlude does not really finish, it just evolved into the next track, Oclupaca. an Ellington musical big band score featuring the clarinet of Alex Budman.
Two of my favorite cuts are Miss Fine and Black,Brown and Beautiful which are both Oliver Nelson compositions. Miss Fine is a swinging number where the brass takes over and leaves the audience wanting more, once is not enough. Black, Brown and Beautiful is another slow and sexy mellow number that captures the heart with the sultry sax playing of Alex Budman.
As previously stated, Monday in the City is a live recording so you will hear the sound of applause and exaltation from the excited crowed in Jazz at Pearl's which, in my opinion, adds a spicy natural flavor to this CD. The Contemporary Jazz Orchestra, under the leadership of Mr. Budman, has certainly carved out a special place of their own in the west coast jazz scene. I am a new fan and will be looking forward to their latest project, a studio produced CD with original compositions and arrangements. Great job Alex and the rest of the CJO!