Big band fans who hail from - or have visited - the San Francisco area probably are familiar with the Contemporary Jazz Orchestra.
This wonderful group has been a Bay Area mainstay for more than 10 years, and has performed every Monday evening at Jazz At The Pearl for about the same length of time. Even if you seldom leave the Sacramento area, you may have caught this ensemble when it was featured at Waterfront Park several years ago. (Group leader Alex Budman lived in Sacramento during his early years.)
The Contemporary Jazz Orchestra has made three previous CDs, all recorded live. This performance, done at a studio in 2005, has just been released. Every track is an original: some written by Budman, and others arranged by him.
This is a big band, in every sense of the word. The instrumentation for this release involves six reeds, including Budman, who plays alto and tenor sax, and clarinet; four trumpets; five trombones; and a rhythm section of piano, guitar, bass and drums.
"Instruments of Mass Pleasure" features nine tracks that range from straight-ahead jazz through hard-bop and several Afro-Cuban tunes. "In Case of Emergency" is based on a standard 16-bar progression (in two keys), with a bridge (also in two keys). "Little Prayer" is inspired by John Coltrane's "Dear Lord," while "Ballad for Benny" was commissioned by never played by Benny Goodman.
The two Latin/Afro-Cuban tracks, "Samba in 7" and "Girolata," brings back memories of Dizzy Gillespie's Afro-Cuban group, but the arrangements here are cleaner and less laid-back. The remaining tracks are tributes to the mid-tempo arrangements prevalent in those wonderful big band years.
The CD is a great addition to the music of that era.