Urban Landscapes is exactly what it purports to be. Newyorkestra Big Band offers a variety of original sketches of the Great City. The band gives us pause to glimpse New York in different, often startling ways. In his most recent novel, William Boyd writes: "Crossing Park Avenue, on my way to work, my head full of Monday, I looked to my left and saw the hypodermic syringe of the Chrysler Building Flare, hit by the morning sun a silver art-deco spaceship about to blast off." Newyorkestra Big Band has the same kind of unexpected impact.
The band captures the exuberant sounds of movement on Manhattan streets whereby New York scenes can mostly be ubiquitous, but then there are moments when it can strike you right between the eyes with the revelation that the Chrysler building might just get outta here for once. You know you’re no longer in Kennebunkport anymore.
Pete McGuiness’ piece, ‘Out of the Frying Pan,’ and Rob Middleton’s ‘Digital Life’ are like a Manhattan Monday morning out the door, off to work with the hustle-bustle of people and vehicles zipping and zooming by. You either are part of the flow or you need another fix of caffeine.
Even ‘As Always’ which is relatively graceful with Andy Middleton’s luscious soprano saxophone solo has a blast from the horn section that is like a wake-up call from a bunch of angry taxis. Herbie Hancock’s ‘One Finger Snap’ begins sharply with the band never letting up. Bill Mobley’s trumpet work is simply on fire such that the Chrysler Building may have already taken off. ‘Sink or Swim’ moves to a manic samba beat with the help of percussionist Bobby Sanabria.
It is only when you get to Andy Middleton’s ballad, ‘Portland Painter,’ where the scene shifts to less frenetic and more wistful. His tenor saxophone solo is particularly soulful and graceful. This is the one tune that is pastoral in orientation and serves as a contrast to the otherwise frenzied City.
While there is something illicit going on during ‘The Night Shift,’ Horace Silver’s silvery bright ‘Gregory is Here’ captures the flavor and power of a great Latin jazz big band. The grand finale is "Eighty One/It’s About that Time" which offers a series of glorious solos by Sheila Cooper on alto saxophone, Bruce Eidem on trombone, Mike Ponella on trumpet with electric pianist Mike Holober and bassist Andy Eulau playing the pulsating and narcotic Miles Davis melody.
It’s a great pleasure to listen to a big band that clearly has its heart of the grand city in mind capturing New York in all its vibrancy, sleaze and passion.