What’s in a name? For Jens Wendelboe’s Big Crazy Energy New York Band, a hell of a lot lies in that moniker and the “genre-busting musical polymath” does more than live up to the billing with his latest release. Inspirations is a big sweeping epic of a record and Wendelboe’s group lets it all hang out on nine high-spirited tracks that refuse to be tied down by field or tradition.
Wendelboe says that the record is comprised of music that lives in the intersection of American and British jazz. Seen through the eyes of this peppy and adventurous Norwegian, this stuff knows no limits.
That’s probably because Wendelboe himself knows no limits, what with playing at Oslo’s Nobel Prize ceremony or serving as Donna Summers’ musical director. When he’s not sailing off halfway around the world, Wendelboe can be found composing and arranging for his beloved Big Crazy Energy New York Band. He’s fronted the group since 1984.
Inspirations is yet another more than fitting name, as the record’s fascination with Wendelboe’s influences is intoxicating. Whether his outfit is taking on a lovingly arranged reworking of Lennon and McCartney’s “A Day in Life” or jamming through Joe Henderson’s big swinging “Out of the Night,” it’s easy to tell that this is a group that plays for the love of it.
The record kicks off with an enthusiastic fusion piece that lets a few members make their introductions. “Pleasant Pheasant,” a tight little example of fine section work, blows the roof off with a classic tenor face-off featuring Mark Fineberg and Ken Gioffre. And then there’s Bill Heller’s sleek synth work to draw the thing down to a smoother level.
The Big Crazy Energy New York Band is capable of gearing down too, however, and it shows its slower chops on the soothing Deb Lyons showcase vocal showcase “Seasons Wander.” Written be Wendelboe, this piece moves with flourish and flavour.
When one considers Wendelboe’s eclectic resume, which includes scoring music for the soap The Guiding Light and performing in a private New Year’s Eve concert for King Mohammed the 6th of Morocco, it’s hard to imagine that there’s any place the composer and arranger won’t go. With the Big Crazy Energy New York Band at his side, it’s hard to imagine there’s much that limits him at all.