Seattle Womens Jazz Orchestra

Meeting of the Waters

oa2 22033

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MUSIC REVIEW BY Jason Bivins, Cadence

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The SWJO is an obviously very tightly rehearsed group executing crafty but fluid arrangements and generally coming across as dynamic and grooving. With a considerable power to their sound, balanced by grace and restraint in the execution, this is a band sure to please those listeners who gravitate toward large ensemble mainstream music. The album has some fine highpoints and some clunkers too. For example, there are some very nice sections in the middle of Barry's "The Checkered Demon," oddly bringing to mind some of Bernard Hermann's film scores in the way they use tonal color and dissonance. Barry's pounding but supple "The Mighty Urubamba" is probably the finest track here, with a lovely trumpet intro and a nice arrangement that shows the band's facility with Latin charts, undergirded by big, bold ostinati and layered percussion. The closing "Miraflores" is similarly enjoyable. And Leach's "The Tulip Wonder" is one of the most spirited pieces here, riding in on a cool snappy rhythm over droning winds and bursting into a propulsive funk. But occasionally the drumming and piano playing are a bit stiff, swinging more like Mancini than Basie. The repertory - while colorful - is thoroughly routine in most respects, in terms of the voicings, harmonies, soloing, and so forth. I also can't stand Matassa's airy vocals on "Self Portrait" - where the band sounds like they're pilfering the chord progression from "Blue in Green" a bit too (along with occasional nods to "Lush Life"). And the somewhat abstracted reading of "Old Folks" sounds diffuse and a bit unsure (although Cynthia Mullis takes a fine solo). This doesn't mean the recording is not enjoyable, for it is - lively and professionally played - and my tastes are not your tastes. I'd say there's probably enough here to recommend to big band fans, and certainly a few strong bits to please most listeners.






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