Oh, how I miss the big bands! And, as a result, how grateful I am for releases such as this one from Dave Slonaker, who feel the same emptiness, and occasionally fill it with great "temporary" groups.
Unless you're part of the musical world, Slonaker probably isn't on your jazz scope. But if you're a movie or television fan, you've been exposed to him many times during the past 20 years. He has arranged or orchestrated the music for dozens of films and TV shows. A partial list includes Oz, the Great and Powerful, Frankenweenie, Little Fockers, Men in Black 3, Milk, Night at the Museum, Charlotte's Web, The Legend of Zorro, Jag and many, many more. We therefore can take for granted that his skills are far better than his lack of a "name" might suggest.
This big band is the newest of his endeavors, and Intrada is the group's debut release. It's a truly large unit: five woodwinds, five trumpets/flugelhorns, four trombones and a rhythm section consisting of piano, bass and drums. Slonaker arranged all the tunes and directed this stellar group.
This is the smoothest orchestra that I've heard in years. The arrangements are superb; the solo work, distributed among the cadre of artists, is sensational. There's nothing not to like, but the highlight arrangement is a visit to the old standard, "It's Only a Paper Moon." It's a wonderful melody, and Slonaker's arrangement brings it back to life in an intriguing way.
I hope to hear a lot more from these artists.