Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Shrine Big Band, Swamp Music, with Eric Plaks

The Shrine Big Band is a dynamic 14-member ensemble who got together to record in the Manhattan School of Music Recording Studio right before Hurricane Sandy hit in October 2012. They managed to get a good CD of music before the winds and flooding reached the city. We get to hear the results on Swamp Music (self released).

Eric Plaks, whose music has been a part of this page in the last several months, is on piano and contributes two of his compositions, "Cecilian Mafia" and the title piece, dedicated to Cecil Taylor and Bill Dixon, respectively. Trombonist James Rogers contributes "Gnomes on the Move" and "Quickie." Trombonist Mark Broschinsky gives us his "Anger Management." Tenor sax Alan Davis comes through with "Theme 3." Trombonist Matt McDonald chimes in with "Miss Sunshine." And there is a group improv, "Sandman's Near," which they managed to get recorded as the winds were picking up.

The compositions are substantial in an avant freebop realm. The band has strength and clout, they are well rehearsed and yet give us the spontaneity of avant freedom as a part of their approach. Solos are generally very good, including those by Plaks, Justin Wood on tenor, Dan Blankinship on trumpet, Justin Rothberg on electric guitar, McDonald on bone and Austin Becker on alto together, Josh Lawrence on trumpet with Broschinsky and Plaks in a three-way, and finally McDonald and Davis alone.

Jon Pannikar and Motoki Mihara form the solid drums and bass rhythm team.

If the naming of names seems a bit tedious, it does give you an idea of who is responsible for this, basically New York lesser-knowns who show they can put together a first-class big band with exciting charts and vibrant soloing.

In all you hear some excellent sounds on this. The difficulties of economics may mean that we may not be hearing this band much in the future, but that is not because they are unworthy. There is a good bit of talent here and one can only hope they can gather together and do more in the future.

As it stands this is a very pleasant surprise. An avant jazz big band with grit and drive! Grab this one if you like new large ensemble possibilities in the out-there mode. The Shrine Big Band is a good one!

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