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Beats & Pieces Big Band — Good Days
(Efpi Records FP042, 2023, CD / DL)

by Jon Davis, Published 2023-01-24

Good Days Cover art

Expectations can be dangerous things. After really enjoying the previous release from Beats & Pieces Big Band, the live Ten, I expected to hear more of the kind of energetic, innovative music I found there. Instead, the group’s third studio album, Good Days, operates mostly in sparser, more moody territory. You won’t find any of the infectious odd-meter grooves and catchy riffs that made Ten so appealing. Instead, you get a lot more freedom, slower tempos, and lushly orchestrated melodies. There are also quite a few quiet stretches of field recordings, providing an atmospheric backdrop to the ensemble. “Wait” sets the stage, a brief piece with twittering birds and a melancholy electric piano. “Op” brings in the rest of the band for a cinematic build-up to an early climax followed by a long piano solo over gradually increasing backing. “Elegy” is a long, slow tune with a heartfelt melody on alto sax backed very subtly with quiet intertwining parts on saxes and trombones. Over the course of nine minutes, the rest of the instruments join in to bring it to a big finish, and on the whole it’s got a definite ECM vibe to it. “Db” consists of about a minute of wild, fairly free ensemble playing stuck into the middle of field recordings for a very odd listening experience. “(Blues for) Linu” is a strange romp of short phrases tossed around from instrument to instrument, section to section, and comes off very much like one of Charles Mingus’ large ensemble recordings of the late 50s like Mingus Ah Um. “Woody” has a kind of New Orleans feeling to it and is probably closest to what I expected coming in. After numerous listens, I’m still not really sure what to make of Good Days. It’s not fair to judge music based on my imagined picture of what it should be, so other listeners might well have completely different reactions to the music.

Filed under: New releases, 2023 releases

Related artist(s): Beats & Pieces Big Band

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