Thursday, August 20, 2009

Contemporary Big Band from the Aggregation

If you think big bands are moribund, calcified or otherwise somehow not especially relevant to the music scene in 2009, you may be right. But not always. In spite of the economics that would place many such affiliations in financial difficulties, there are some good bands out there right now, thriving musically despite the odds against them. And those bands generally continue to find life in, and fresh takes on the big band style.

An example is The Aggregation, headed by trumpeter Eddie Allen. Their new Groove's Mood CD (DBCD), due out this October, has plenty of verve, soul, and swinging energy. The program has a few jazz standards, like Hubbard's "Sky Dive," a rearrangement of "Wade in the Water," two Stevie Wonder classics, and a triad of nice compositions by leader Allen.

This is a tight, well rehearsed ensemble and the charts stand out as good examples of today's big band mainstream. Eddie Allen plays some nice horn too. The most ambitious number, Allen's "The Black Coming," holds the most interest for me. It is serious stuff and well played

My only quibble is the treatment of the Stevie Wonder songs. It may be that Mr. Wonder's original performances were so definitive that it is quite difficult to improve on them or find a fresh perspective. "My Cherie Amour" and "You are the Sunshine of My Life" are just classics. So why is it so hard to come up with arrangements that do something interesting? I have no answer. Thankfully this is a small part of the CD. The rest cooks, boils, and gives notice that Eddie Allen's The Aggregation is a big band to be reckoned with.

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