Several years ago, trombonist/composter/arranger Doug Beavers released his excellent debut album: Jazz, Baby, a compilation of children's tunes, rearranged in a big band jazz format. Two Shades Of Nude, his sophomore release, illustrates how far he has advanced in the interim.
Beavers' instrumental skills continue to be exceptional, and his talents as a composer and arranger have improved remarkably. He's working with a nonet on this release; he composed four of the nine tracks and arranged all of them.
This is a much more "modern"-sounding group than that used on his first album. The result is a combination of symphonic ensemble melodic lines and rhythms that move into free-jazz treatment during the solo passages. The covers are by Herbie Hancock ("Tell Me A Bedtime Story"), Chick Corea ("Gemini"), McCoy Tyner ("Blues On The Corner"), Tony Williams ("Hand Jive") and Clare Fischer ("Pensativa"); all are mid-tempo tunes that swing nicely and feature creative solo passages.
Beavers' originals are more complex and "serious." "Lapse," a poignant ballad featuring pianist Henry Hey, is one of the prettiest tunes I've heard in a long time.
The album's liner notes include a key quote: "Players have to be musicians of the first order, who can read anything that's put in front of them, while always swinging." The artists here have that capability, and the result is a first-class release.