Oh, how I miss those wonderful big band years.
Fortunately, I can console myself with groups such as the Budman/Levy Orchestra, another of the large units formed periodically to assuage members of the jazz fraternity’s desires to revisit those days, and create the kind of music that dominated then. If we’re lucky, perhaps we’ll get concerts to attend, along with additional recording sessions that result in albums such as this one.
Alex Budman and Jeremy Levy co-lead this marvelous band. Budman plays sax, clarinet and flute; he has led a 16-piece contemporary jazz orchestra in the San Francisco area, where he also has recorded albums and played literally hundreds of shows. He moved to Los Angeles in 2005, where he is a first-call musician.
Trombonist Levy, after receiving a master’s degree from the University of Miami, also moved to L.A., where he has been active in film, television and video game activities. He became involved with Budman and their collaborative orchestra in 2007.
Indeed, this is a big band, with 24 musicians: eight artists in the reed section; 11 in the brass sections; and a rhythm section of five. On top of this, one track features four string players. Levy arranged all 11 songs, and composed all but two; “Zona Mona” is by Bela Fleck and Jeff Coffin, while “Slings & Arrows” comes from Michael Brecker.
As often is true these days, the compositions and arrangements are much more complex, interesting and exciting than was the case during the tenure of icons such as Duke Ellington, Woody Herman, Count Basie and their peers. That said, the answer to the most important question — “Does it swing?” — is a resounding yes.
In addition to the great arrangements, the solo work is excellent throughout. This is the kind of jazz you’ll want to play for hours. You’ll love this orchestra!