New York based composer, arranger and trombonist/alto flugelhornist, Scott Reeves formed his impressive orchestra in 2008, and while Portraits and Places marks its recorded debut, Reeves spent a number of years before that sharpening his composing and arranging skills at the highly regarded BMI Jazz Composers Workshop where he received guidance and mentoring from Manny Albam, Mike Abene, Jim McNeely and Mike Holober. The result is influenced here on eight numbers (three of which comprise the colorful L & T Suite), Reeves is an inventive writer with a strong grasp of the components needed to nurture exciting results and high quality performances from each member of a large ensemble.
Notable is his ability for melody, harmony and a most important element of counterpoint, this is where Reeves benchmarks, his compositions are stylish yet accessible, his arrangements meticulously polished and consistently engaging. His choice in sidemen is stellar with a lineup that reads like a who's who of New York's most sought-after musicians.
The offering kicks off with "The Soulful Mr. Williams," a blues-based groover that immediately sets the tone of harmonic muscularity that this orchestra is about to unleash. Tight woven lines with dark harmonic flavors coupled with poignant solos by Reeves on alto flugelhorn and the imaginative pianist Jim Ridl. What is unique is the alto flugelhorn sound, close in nature to the trombone, Reeves primary instrument, gives this track a moody feel that is powerfully portrayed. "3 'n 2" is a driving tune with high flying trumpet notes and an fervent solo courtesy of tenorist Tim Armacost, and trumpeter Bill Mobley.
An intriguing journey to Asia can be found in "Osaka June," in which Sara Serpa's wordless ornamentations set the stage for spoken dialogue (in Japanese) by Emi Miyajima Nobe and Yuzuki Nobe (mother and child), which deceivingly sets up the tune that takes the listener though romping solos by Ridl and soprano saxophonist Steve Wilson, who puts forth a riveting performance.
Jobim, a master at writing bossa nova adorns Reeves offering with an arrangement by Reeves of "Aguas de Marco" a wonderful halfway stop to cleanse your pallet before embarking into the L & T Suite (3 movements), the suite features the nimble "Wants to Dance," featuring Wilson on alto and drummer Andy Watson, an introspective and darkly tuned "Trombonist's Tale" helmed by trombonist Matt McDonald, and the zestful "Hip Kitty," again showcasing Ridl's adroit piano skills. "Last Call," closes the session, showcasing low brass, giving the lower register players their due, especially notable are the solos by bass trombonist Max Seigel and baritone Terry Goss before complimented by Seneca Black's muted trumpet, that gently weaves the listener to the finality of the tune.
Reeves the director of jazz studies at CCNY, certainly walks the walk, and with Portraits and Places, he shows he can also bring forth a new generation of orchestra tunes that delight, challenge and push the lineage forward. Fantastic writing, top-notch playing by all, makes this a superbly preeminent orchestra offering. A highly recommended "must" to any collection.