Conscious Journey Part 1 & 2 is the double-CD debut from trumpeter, composer, and arranger Kenny Lavender. He leads a 17-piece big band in an 11-tune set, featuring eight original compositions and three standards. It is a tight outfit, with a sound that makes a nod to some of the great bands of the past and takes off from there into the stratosphere. Lavender has put together a talented group of New York based musicians who can swing with the best of them.
This is a band that can turn it on. Just listen to Lavender’s arrangement of the classic “Caravan” that opens the second disc. This is one hot track. If you like the big band sound, the Basie sound, this is an album you will want to hear. If you don’t like the big band sound, Lavender’s “Caravan” may well change your mind.
The first disc has a half-dozen Lavender originals, tunes the composer says represent different stages in his personal growth. They include songs like “Flow Through Me,” which the press notes tell us reflect how his love for his wife helped him overcome his addiction. Pieces like “Velocity” reflect his musical influences, in this case the Terry Gibbs Dream Band. “9th Ave Swag” has a funky groove and “Down in Nola” is inspired by his special ties to New Orleans. He does do some vocal work on several of the tunes, but I must confess that, pleasant as his voice is, I prefer his work on trumpet.
Besides the excellent “Caravan,” the second disc includes Rodgers and Hart’s “I Could Write a Book” and a heck of a take on trumpeter Kenny Dorham’s “Una Mas.” There is also an homage to Clark Terry, a Lavender favorite, in the original “Clark’s Bark.” Lavender says he added a bit of Maynard Ferguson spice at the end.
Excellent solo work from Lavender and the other members of the band combine with solid ensemble playing to produce a truly exciting debut album.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00LFLLA8O]