Dan Gailey has been known for years as a superb composer / arranger / saxophonist / educator but never before as leader of his own orchestra, an oversight he deftly corrects on What Did You Dream? All the music on this congenial studio date is Gailey's, and it is contemporary without being opaque, melodically and harmonically impressive without extravagance, sophisticated without losing sight of the imperative to swing.
Gailey's hand-picked orchestra, comprised of world-class musicians from Kansas City and beyond, puts its collective shoulder to the wheel and breathes invigorating life into each of his resourceful charts, which range from blues ("In a Big Way") to ballad ("Early Light") to tone poem ("Point No Point"), ending with an earnest tribute to one of Gailey's seminal influences, the late tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker ("11th Hour"). The pensive title selection stems from Gailey's having been chosen by the International Association of Jazz Educators' to receive the 1996 Gil Evans Fellowship for composition, and was introduced at the 1997 IAJE Conference in Chicago.
The solos by pianist Dana Landry and soprano saxophonist John Gunther on "What Did You Dream?" are engaging, as are others throughout the album, starting with trumpeter Vern Sielert, trombonist Paul McKee and tenor Peter Sommer on "Audacity." Guitarist Steve Kovlacheck is out front on "Point No Point," tenor Don Aliquo on "Early Light," Landry, Kovlacheck, bassist Eric Applegate and drummer Jim White on "In a Big Way." As no solo credit is given on "11th Hour," one has to deduce whether that's Gailey himself on tenor. The guess here is, in all likelihood, yes.
After years of having his music performed by others, it's high time Gailey inscribed his name as designer of the finished product, and he couldn't have chosen a more auspicious vehicle for his maiden voyage than What Did You Dream?