Wil Swindler has produced a new CD, [Universe B
], filled with sophisticated and beautiful small-big band music. I was knocked out by both the playing and, in particular, the writing. Although the music remains tonal throughout, the harmonic language is intriguingly complex while remaining utterly accessible. Swindler's writing evokes Gil Evans, with its use of unconventional instruments such as the French horn and euphonium as well as the use of cluster type voicings. Indeed, one such piece, ?Glass,? is dedicated to Evans who I imagine would indeed be flattered by the musical results Swindler achieves by the clever manipulation of a 12 tone row. The resulting composition happily has nothing to do with the pedantic dryness and intellectual impenetrability that we commonly associate with serial music. Another nod to Evans comes in the form of a lovely reworking of ?Miles Ahead? where trumpeter Gabriel Mervine does an excellent job of conjuring up the spirit of Miles. The opening piece, with its jumpy unison bass clarinet and bass line, recalls Mike Brecker's ?Broadband? from Wide Angles but Swindler goes his own way and the piece does not come off as derivative at all. The band itself is tight, disciplined, and well-balanced and the 11 players produce a kaleidoscope of colors with a relatively few number of players?a testimony to both the players and the writer. The soloists are very good, too, with Swindler, Landry, Sommer, and Hood all producing excellent solos. I like the fact that the soloists are allowed to breathe along with the rhythm section unencumbered by excessive and intrusive backgrounds. This is a wonderful album and I enjoyed every track and each solo. Swindler has set the bar pretty high for himself so I'll certainly look forward to future releases from him. Highly recommended.