Oldschool Big Band Power from Michael Treni
There are plenty of second acts in jazz – trombonist/composer Michael Treni is one of them. A college bandmate of Pat Metheny and a rising star in the New York scene in the late 70s, he left jazz and went into wireless audio and language interpretation systems, a field in which he owns patents and carved out a career that allowed him to make a comeback in the past decade. His latest album Boys Night Out, his fourth with his Big Band, is an enjoyably trad, high-energy effort. It’s the kind of record that might take you a bottle of wine to understand, and then the message is clear: this is a bunch of guys, most of them dating from the 70s, having a GREAT time with some blazing charts and a richly tuneful mix of Treni originals and covers. Pretty much everybody in the band gets at least a cameo; it’s a chance to hear a bunch of New York personalities at the top of their game.
The opening track, Leonard Bernstein’s Something’s Coming (from West Side Story) sounds like a latin version of the Mission Impossible theme, which may be intentional – longtime Horace Silver trumpeter Vinnie Cutro takes the first solo, wry and spiraling and finally bringing it up intensely, followed by a similar one from Jerry Bergonzi on soprano sax. The title track, a late 70s Treni composition, reaches for a brightly cosmopolitan Thad Jones/Mel Lewis swing vibe, giving soprano saxophonist Sal Spicola a launching pad for a gorgeously purist, glissando-drenched, bluesy solo echoed vividly by trombonist Philip Jones and then trumpeter Chris Persad. Lullaby of Birdland gets a brisk, lush and unexpectedly lurid, noir intepretation, tenor saxophonist Frank Elmo kicking in with more bluesiness that trombonist Matt Bilyk is obviously glad to take to the next level. Clare Fischer’s insightful, rather brooding Strayhorn amps the pensive, thoughtful factor with apt solos from Spicola on alto and Bergonzi on tenor.
In My Quiet Time is the real blockbuster here, a lushly orchestrated, suspenseful bolero-jazz stunner by Treni that never quite lets up through a tiptoeing bass solo by Takashi Atsuka and some spot-on, moody work by Ken Hitchcock on alto flute. What Is the World Coming To reverts to oldschool bluesy mode, with a succession of energetic solo spots from Craig Yaremko on alto, Hitchcock on tenor, Bob Ferrel on trombone and Cutro to wind things up on a somewhat tense note as the rhythm section goes in a funkier direction. Strayhorn’s UMMG gives pianist Charles Blenzig a chance to cut loose, judiciously; the album closes with Here’s That Rainy Day, featuring Blenzig and the bandleader along with the rest of the band, completely unleashed, then restrained and urbane: it’s a clever and smart way to end this soulful update on the classy style of a previous era.
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