Recorded live at the Lima Jazz Fes-tival in Peru, at Jazz Alley, and at the Tacoma Jazz Festival, as well as in the studios of the Art Institute of Seattle, Dreamcatcher demonstrates just how proficient a big band SWOJO has be-come. It boasts a strong lineup, with some real standouts, and its musical director, Daniel Barry, clearly has in-spired ideas about where to take the ensemble. He wrote about half of the material here, as well.
The band achieves some great ef-fects of energy and drive, starting right out of the gate with Al Farlow's arrangement of Johnny Griffin's "63rd Street Theme." A perfect sequel to its bluster is Barry's own "The Hiding Place," with its hints of Mexican brass bands, and a yearning, soaring foundation that gives alto saxophonist Lisa Gordanier an opportunity to let loose. Most impressive, though, is the great swinging ensemble sound that the band kicks into.
Then there's a quietening of mood, to give trombonists Carolyn Custer and Mariah Ralston the spotlight on Chico O'Farrill's "Pura EmociŪn." Both make good expressive use of their capabilities. That can be said of many of the soloists -- many are more expressively musical than they are flash players.
It is a pity that special guest tenor saxophonist Sue Orfield is not a permanent member of the group, and similarly that she has left the all-women sax quartet, the Tiptons. She has been a welcome addition to this city's jazz scene, a powerful and exciting player. You can hear her soloing to great ef-fect on four of this disc's 11 tracks. Her sound if full-on with range and confidence. She's like a Texas tenor. She lays claim to that title on the opening track, and nails it on "Big Mama Louise," the Kim Richmond tune, where she follows Angela Smith's capable trumpet solo with a fleet, drawling, broad-palette solo of rich emotion. She's back, re-ally letting loose, on Barry's "Nisqually Riff." Orfield is a gem of a player.
Almost throughout, the album is convincing. Guest vocalist Greta Matassa lets loose on "Fly Me to the Moon" and Bobby Darin's "As Long As I'm Singing," as she so impressively can.
A quibble perhaps, is that the band, although impressively tight, occasionally lacks the turn-on-a-dime punch that elevates a big band beyond the ordinary, into a stratosphere that this band certainly seems capable of orbiting. But, in all, this album demonstrates just how quickly the SWOJO has become a force among the Seattle area's many outstanding big bands.