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VJO is a class outfit. Their Grammy-nominated 'OverTime: Music of Bob Brookmeyer' shows them working at their best.

Music Review: The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra – ‘OverTime: Music of Bob Brookmeyer’

OverTime: Music of Bob Brookmeyer, the excellent August release from The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra (VJO), has been announced as a nominee for the 2015 Grammy for “Large Jazz Ensemble” along with albums from The Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band, Rufus Reid, and the Archie Shepp Attica Blues Orchestra. The Vanguard is the continuing manifestation of the great big band founded by trumpeter Thad Jones and drummer Mel Lewis, which had been playing on Mondays at the Village night spot almost from its inception, becoming the VJO in 1990 after the death of Lewis.

The brilliant trombonist/composer/arranger Bob Brookmeyer began working with the band as Lewis’ music director in 1979 before moving to Europe and becoming involved with other projects like the New Art Orchestra. As the liner notes indicate he continued to work with the VJO off and on, resulting in the idea for a new recording in 2008. OverTime is that recording. It features work from Brookmeyer’s earlier association with the band as well as new material, one piece, the volatile “At The Corner of Ralph and Gary,” completed just before Brookmeyer’s death and the last piece on the album, “Sad Song,” left as a sketch on his piano.overtime2

The album is a tribute to Brookmeyer’s genius as a composer and arranger. His musical aesthetic captures the orchestra’s imagination whether working with the dramatic dynamic of “Sad Song” or the swinging modern vibe of “Xyz.” His compositions open new paths for the big band and the 16-piece VJO marches down with panache. The album’s opener, “The Big Time,” is the shortest piece in the set, but it serves as an introductory map to those paths and leads to the large scale featured piece.

The three sections of “Suite For Three” follow, beginning with “Oatts,” a showpiece for the alto sax of Dick Oatts, then “Scott,” featuring Scott Wendholt on a haunting flugelhorn, and finishing with “Rich” for tenor sax man Rich Perry. Oatts shows up again with his work on what has become a Brookmeyer classic arrangement of “Skylark.”

As large ensembles go, the VJO is a class outfit. OverTime: Music of Bob Brookmeyer shows them working at their best.

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