Saxophonist and composer Wil Swindler has been an important part of the Colorado jazz scene, where he leads several groups, freelances and teaches at Colorado State University. Back in 2010, he recorded Universe B with his Elevenet. Now, 12 years later, his 11-piece group is still active and includes six of its original members.
The emphasis is on Swindler's writing. All compositions other "Blackbird" and "Pavlov's Daughter" are his. So are the arrangements. In fact, there are only a handful of moments when anyone is soloing and not surrounded by the horns' tone colors. Swindler manages to get a big band sound out of an ensemble that only includes two saxophones. His writing for bass clarinetist April Johannesen is particularly inspired, and his use of four restrained brass, including Susan McCullough on French horn, is a little reminiscent of Gil Evans at times.
While Swindler gets some solo space on alto and soprano, much of the time his horn playing is heard in the lead rather than making individual statements. His sidemen occasional ly get to solo, most notably tenor saxophonist Peter Sommer on "Space Bugs," which also has a fairly free spot on piano for Ben Markley, and drummer Dru Heler's breaks are a key component in the group's sound, including during some of the melody statements.
The highpoints in Swindler's writing includes the syncopated phrases on "Space Bugs," the bass clarinet pattern on the well-titled "Tantrum In D," the shift in moods and instrumentation on a medley of "Julia" and "Blackbird," his ballad "Little Requiem" and the energetic closer "Pavlov's Daughter."