An appropriately-titled debut from the Budman/Levy Orchestra, From There To Here features 24 of the finest players in the Los Angeles area, plus a four-piece string section, superbly interpreting twelve compositions from composer/arranger/trombonist/co-leader Jeremy Levy co-leader of the group. San Franciscan saxophonist Alex Budman is the other leader of an ensemble formed in 2007 and, like the album title suggests, came to LA from elsewhere for the chance to document some great jazz.
Budman recorded several albums with the Contemporary Jazz Orchestra (the Monday night house band at Pearl's in San Francisco); Levy, since arriving in LA after graduate studies at the University of Miami, has worked in nearly every area of the music industry, from films to arrangements for The Tonight Show and American Idol. One day, while driving Interstate 95 in Miami, Levy came up with the groove for the opening "95 or 64," a sprawling big band number featuring solos from Budman (on tenor) and drummer Jamey Tate, with firm accompaniment from the brass.
Levy's quartet arrangement of the melancholy "Miller Time" was adapted to feature Budman (on soprano), while "Zona Mona," a favorite song by banjoist Béla Fleck, was arranged with the Pat Metheny Group in mind. The title track perfectly encapsulates the theme of the disc, as it was begun in Miami and completed in LA. This is a classic big band piece highlighting the horns and the brass, along with contributions from bassist David Hughes and guitarist Andrew Synowiec. The group swings on the powerfully brassy "It's Like That," then tones it down on the moody "Idle Time," specifically written to feature Budman (again on tenor).
The band's muscular sound emerges once again on the percussive, Latin-styled "The Other One" where percussionist Brian Kilgore and pianist Andy Langham join jazz luminary and trombonist of note Andy Martin for one of the highlights of the disc. Levy enlist a four-piece string section on the lush "Waiting," dedicated to his fiancée who, at one time, moved away for a year. It's a soft-textured tune featuring Budman's velvety bass clarinet, with a chamber version of the orchestra. The swinging sounds of the orchestra return on "Superbone Meets the Bud Man," penned for the two co-leaders as Budman's tenor catches fire, backed up by gyrating grooves from the orchestra, with Levy's role supplanted by Martin, once again soloing majestically on this wild and wooly piece.
Offering many wonderful big band moments on From There To Here, this very first outing from the Budman/Levy Orchestra poises the group as one of the most important ensembles from the west coast. Though the recipe employed here—solid performances from Budman and the band on sizzling new charts from Levy—may evolve to include Budman's own music on future recordings, the result will surely be the same. This is contemporary big band music at its best.