John O’Gallagher – alto & soprano sax
Rob Wilkerson – alto sax
John Ellis – tenor sax & bass clarinet
Jason Rigby – tenor sax & flute
Chris Cheek – baritone sax
Alan Ferber – trombone, composer & arranger
Tim Albright – trombone (1, 4, 7 & 8)
Ryan Keberle – trombone (2, 3, 5 & 6)
Josh Roseman – trombone
Jennifer Wharton – bass trombone
Taylor Haskins – trumpet
Scott Wendholt – trumpet
David Smith – trumpet (1, 4, 7 & 8)
Alex Norris – trumpet (2, 3, 5 & 6)
Clay Jenkins – trumpet
Anthony Wilson – guitar
David Cook – piano & keyboards
Matt Pavolka – acoustic & electric bass
Mark Ferber – drums
Recorded May 31 & June 1, 2012 at Systems Two, Brooklyn, NY
Engineers: Joe Marciano, Max Ross
Mixed & mastered at Skyline Productions, Warren NJ
Engineer: Paul Wickliffe
Producer: Alan Ferber
Executive Producer: Francois Zalacain
Release date: July 30, 2013
Label: Sunnyside Records
There are romantic notions tied up with jazz big bands. For a certain generation, the big band is a reminder of what popular music was during their youth, reverence for the impact and excitement the music of Glenn Miller or Tommy Dorsey brought to their young ears. Unfortunately over time, financial and logistic issues have lessened the opportunities for big bands to be heard by newer generations of jazz lovers.
Bucking this trend, trombonist/composer Alan Ferber has become one of a fresh generation of performers who have made big band writing and playing en vogue. His new recording March Sublime presents his own take on the big band tradition and advances it into the worlds of contemporary music.
Both of Ferber’s grandmothers loved big band music (one was an avid fan, and the other a vocalist with groups led by the Dorsey brothers and Gene Krupa.) Alan and his twin brother Mark continued the family tradition by performing with big bands while studying music in their teens. Later while attending UCLA, Alan was able to perform in the University big band under the leadership of legends Gerald Wilson and Garnett Brown.
After graduation, Ferber found frequent work in trombone sections of Los Angeles based big bands, including those of Louie Bellson, Les Brown and Brian Setzer. His move to New York allowed him to become a regular in large ensembles led by a variety of unique composers representing a potpourri of musical styles, most notably with John Hollenbeck, Sufjan Stevens and Esperanza Spalding.
All this is to say that Ferber has gained a lifetime of experience playing the vast canon of big band music from the originators to the most contemporary composers. His own approach is an amalgamation of these influences, from legends, innovators and peers.
Assisting in performance is an amazing array of New York’s best musical talent. The woodwinds include John O’Gallagher, Rob Wilkerson, John Ellis, Jason Rigby and Chris Cheek. The brass section features trombonists Ferber, Tim Albright, Ryan Keberle, Josh Roseman and Jennifer Wharton along with trumpeters Taylor Haskins, Scott Wendholt, David Smith, Alex Norris and Clay Jenkins. The rhythm section is composed of guitarist Anthony Wilson, keyboardist David Cook, bassist Matt Pavolka and drummer Mark Ferber.
The recording begins with the rhythmically intricate and uptempo “Kopi Luwak,” originally commissioned for the Atlantic Brass Quintet and masterfully arranged for big band with the 6-note motif bouncing throughout the sections. A lush arrangement of Björk’s “Hyper-Ballad” follows catching the full drama of the singer’s voice with the woodwinds. “Wildwood Intro” is a swelling, atmospheric overture to “Wildwood,” a well-paced, emotive piece referencing the place where Ferber married his wife near Moraga, California.
“So It Seems” is a moving composition written by saxophonist Chris Cheek, who is featured on baritone sax over the ever-evolving arrangement. “March Sublime” presents various textures through the trading of an ostinato figure weaving throughout the ensemble to striking effect. Ferber’s arrangement of the Hoagy Carmichael classic “I Get Along Without You Very Well” is a lovingly articulated version of this evergreen. Closing the set is “The Compass,” an original first written for nonet, which Ferber expanded for a dynamic and colorful big band arrangement.
Ferber’s attachment to the big band music of the past and his commitment to the music’s future advancement prove to be his passions. Thus, March Sublime proves to be an intriguing collection of compositions and arrangements by this extremely talented musician.
A “Pick of the Week” on eMusic
Thoughtful review by Sam Weinberg for Search & Restore
Very good review by Mark Corroto in All About Jazz
A great review by Richard Kamins on Step Tempest