4 1/2 - STARS
The Scott Reeves Jazz Orchestra follows up the highly successful debut album Portraits and Places (Origin, 2016), with another masterpiece recording on Without A Trace offering new and exciting arrangements of three standards and four creative Reeves originals that all together, pack quite a powerful musical punch. A full-tenured professor at The City University of New York (CUNY), composer, trombonist and flugelhornist Reeves, takes this twenty-piece ensemble to a higher level in fashioning a riveting musical statement that is sure to resonate with lovers of the big band sound.
Comprising some of the finest musicians from the New York jazz scene, Reeves spices the cast by including such luminaries as saxophonists Steve Wilson and Tim Armacost, along with pianist Jim Ridi and vocalist Carolyn Leonhart among the world-class personnel. Penned with an Afro-Cuban rhythm in mind, the time-honored Kurt Weill and Ogden Nash composition "Speak Low," takes on a new life with solo moments from Wilson, trumpeter Chris Rogers and drummer Andy Watson.
Pianist Ridi and tenor saxophonist Armacost provide the lead solos on the Reeves title track ("Without a Trace") that features Leonhart lending her lush vocals in a tune characterized by unconventional harmonies that work quite well here. The Altman/Lawrence standard "All or Nothing at All," highlights Reeves on a blazing trombone solo as the band turns brassy and bold on this interpretation of the classic with alto saxophonist Vito Chiavuzzo providing a pleasant spark.
From Wayne Shorter's 1965 release of "JuJu," Reeves provides the most recent arrangement from bassist John Patitucci on this large orchestration of the familiar piece while "Shape Shifter," delivers a much more intricate sound from a slow intro to a fast-paced swinging ¾ section, a solo by the leader on alto flugelhorn as well as a shift in tempo and mood.
Ending in high-octane fashion, the band lets it all hang out on a tribute for the great Thad Jones on "Something for Thad," featuring sparkling solos from trumpeter Andy Gravish and trombonist Matt Haviland capping a vibrant and powerful session of big band jazz from the Scott Reeves Jazz Orchestra, kudos to Reeves and the band.