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Music Review: Dave Rivello Ensemble – Facing the Mirror

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When you’re doing something you love, you find a way to continue to do it for as long as possible. Cost doesn’t matter and neither does compensation.

In the case of composer/conductor Dave Rivello, his passion for jazz is indisputable.

He continues to hone his craft day after day, playing with his Dave Rivello Ensemble once a week for the past eight years and establishing a tradition that he’ll continue for the rest of his life. Of course, playing once a week doesn’t crank up much by way of income, so Rivello keeps things going working at freelance copying and as an assistant professor at the Eastman School of Music.

When the Dave Rivello Ensemble steps up to play every Thursday night (it used to be every Monday night), it is all about the music. “On a good night we each make $10,” Rivello says. “But at every gig there is always a moment of musical magic. That’s what keeps me going.”

Some of that musical magic has been pressed into his ensemble’s debut CD, Facing the Mirror. Featuring liner notes from Bob Brookmeyer and eight original Rivello arrangements, the album provides a nice taste of the live experience.

As a large jazz ensemble, Rivello’s group is concrete and determined without lacking adventurousness or creativity. His 12-piece ensemble is pared down somewhat from the usual 17-piece big band, with a few instrumental decisions that seem to really pay off. The Dave Rivello Ensemble lacks a baritone sax, for instance, but gathers power from the lower registry thanks to Jeff Meyer on tuba and the twin trombones of Dan Pierce and Phil Ostrander.

The compositions are layered and textured pieces of music that really give each ensemble member a place to fit comfortably.

Rivello makes the most out of placing solos, offering pianist Red Wierenga a remarkable spot to shine as the action scales down in “The Path of Innocence.” The layering is also brilliant, as Red shadows tenor saxophonist José Encarnación beautifully.

Drummer Ted Poor gets in on the action with strong playing in the introduction of “Beyond the Fall.” His fills blend perfectly with Rivello’s skilfully arranged chords and Matt Pivec’s soprano sax.

Facing the Mirror is a crisp, enjoyable hour of Rivello’s resourceful and clever compositions. Infused with passion and precision, the Dave Rivello Ensemble’s debut CD strongly illustrates the true love these artists feel for their craft night after night.

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