I've already selected my Large Ensemble Jazz winner for the 2006 Grammys. My ears and mind tell me the sound is better than some winners of recent years. He's that good, I think.
I'm talking about the rich, full-section sound of newcomer Chris Walden and his big band and a just released CD entitled "Love Of My Heart" (Origin Records/2005). This 16 chart, 74-minute tour de force offers a diversity of melodic sounds. Regardless your loyalties to other big bands, this album has the synergy to change an open mind and your allegiances.
It starts like a NASCAR race with something that would have drawn smiles from an oldtimer like Charley Barnet. A rollicking rendition of the Ray Noble standby "Cherokee." Jeff Driscoll's alto sax and Kyle Palmer's trumpet light up this piece. But the chart that blows me away is Christopher Cross's "Rainy Day in Vancouver." Bob Sheppard's soprano sax glides along beautifully on this tasteful Walden arrangement. It's my nominee for instrumental of the year.
And who is this Chris Walden?
He's a thirtyish German born trumpeter turned composer/arranger who brings raves from a multi-Oscar heavyweight like John Williams and jazz legend Dave Grusin among others. Just listen to Chris interpret Williams' "Star Wars" and you catch the excitement he generates. He began composing and playing trumpet with the German National Youth Jazz Orchestra while studying composition and arranging at the University of Cologne. He had scored 400 arrangements for big bands and symphony orchestras and recorded 60 CDs as well as supplied the music tracks for 20 German films by the time he and his talent crossed the Atlantic to Hollywood at 29.
He has arranged for a cross-section of the musical world; Sheryl Crow, Nancy Wilson, Bill Conti and Chris Cross to name a few. If you saw the Hallmark production "The Last Cowboy" you heard Chris. You also heard his work on "Alien Siege" on the A&E network and if you switched to the Sci Fi channel you listened to his music behind "Crimson Force." Love Of My Heart showcases some of the best and creative of Los Angeles' jazz artists; Brandon Fields, Pete Christlieb, Peter Erskine and Bobby Shew just to name drop.
Chris is on tour this year primarily on the West Coast...but, hopefully, you'll hear his music on your favorite jazz show. If not, let your DJ know you'd like to hear it.
And what does the album title mean? "I chose the title because I felt this music is where my heart lies in terms of musical passion," he says. "I like big, emotional, lush music." He says it all in few words...so will you.