Our last visit with the Seattle Rep Jazz Orchestra was back in 2006, when they recorded the Sacred Music of Duke Ellington
. It was an impressive recording and made our "Best of 2006" list. The Seattle Rep has taken the task of recording American jazz classic compositions from our revered jazz masters. They also commission work from those jazz legends still with us to showcase new works. Such is the case with Jimmy Heath, a tenor master of over five decades. Heath played with the SRJO in 2001 and the camaraderie was so strong that they commissioned Jimmy to write a suite to perform with the orchestra.
Jimmy's "The Endless Search" was premiered in November, 2006 at Seattle's prized concert venue, Benaroya Hall. Performed in three movements, this suite was met with such approval, that Jimmy was invited in late 2007 to enter the studio with the SRJO to record his suite. Along with Heath's "Sleeves" these two pieces comprise over half of this just released CD. The remaining three tracks are Duke Ellington's "Creole Love Call", Mingus' "Haitian Fight Song" and orchestra co-director, Michael Brockman's "Passage Noir." These were recorded in 2007 and 2010 in live performances in the Seattle and Kirkland.
Heath explains in the liner notes that "The Endless Search Suite" was written to express the development and history of jazz - from early jazz to swing, bop, Latin, boss nova, with the constant of blues influence. The SRJO handles all these jazz styles with ease and Jimmy has not slowed down, handling his solos with aplomb. With veterans like Hadley Caliman, Jay Thomas, and Clarence Acox as well as younger stars like Thomas Marriott and Mark Taylor, Heath could feel confident that the Orchestra could handle whatever arrangements and time signatures with ease. Howard Mostrom has done an exemplary job engineering the recording of the suite.
Saxophonists Bill Ramsay, Mark Taylor, and Travis Ranney each have swinging solos on "Sleeves." Brockman's eerie "Passage Noir" gives drummer, Clarence Acox, center stage. Mingus' Haitian Fight Song" arranged by Sy Johnson retains the raucousness and swing of the composer, while Ellington's "Creole Love Call" gives Thomas Marriott on muted trumpet the chance to strut his stuff while Michael Brockman's clarinet is pure New Orleans.
The Emerald City has reason to be proud of its classy repertory jazz orchestra.