Lisa Maxwell's Jazz Orchestra — Shiny!
(Uncle Marvin Music, 2019, CD)
by Jon Davis, Published 2020-03-03
There was a time (before the birth of most readers of this website) when the big band was the primary unit of both jazz and popular music. Hundreds of groups consisting of 16 or more musicians toured the country and recorded the biggest hits of the day. But by the 50s, such large ensembles were becoming unsustainable, with the costs of supporting so many players out of reach for all but a few elite groups led by Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Stan Kenton, and a handful of others. But even aside from the nostalgia associated with music from that time, the combination of instruments involved (trumpets, trombones, and saxophones with a rhythm section) seems to have a lasting appeal. Even after the Big Band Era was past, the sounds survived on movie soundtracks, incorporating elements of rock and soul under the arranging pens of masters like Henry Mancini and Quincy Jones. Lisa Maxwell is a Los Angeles native with a background in jazz and in soundtrack work, and Shiny! is her debut as leader of a purely musical project. For it she has recruited an elite cadre of players including Randy Brecker (trumpet), Will Lee (bass), Paul Schaffer (piano), Mike Stern (guitar), Oz Noy (guitar), Mark Egan (bass), Danny Gottlieb (drums), and many more, with personnel varying somewhat from track to track. Maxwell touches on a number of different styles with her arrangements, with several tracks sounding like high-class refugees from 70s movie soundtracks, infusing a bit of funk into spy themes. You’ll also hear touches of New Orleans, a breezy jazz waltz, a lush ballad with vocals from Kenya Hathaway, and swinging romps that could have come out of the early 60s. What you won’t hear is anything edgy or avant-garde, so some listeners might find it a bit on the tame side in spite of the quality of the playing. All of the soloists acquit themselves well, and Maxwell’s sophisticated voicings provide lots of variations on the possibilities presented by the instrumentation. I would say that Maxwell has a bright future in soundtrack work, but she’s got a bright past as well, and Shiny! is above all fun.
Asia Minor Third Album on the Way – On January 29, AMS records will be releasing the long-awaited third album by classic Turkish-French band Asia Minor. Released last year in Japan, this will be the widespread debut of Points of Libration. The album features original members Setrak Bakirel (vocals, guitar) and Eril Tekeli (flute, guitar). » Read more
Harold Budd RIP – Harold Budd, one of pre-eminent American composers of avant-garde and minimalism, has died of complications from the coronavirus. Budd came to prominence in the 70s, championed by Brian Eno on his Obscure Records label, with music that blended academic minimalism with electric jazz and electronic music. Much of Budd's best known work was done in collaboration with other artists, including Eno, Daniel Lanois, Robin Guthrie, Andy Partridge, John Foxx, Jah Wobble, and many others. » Read more
Audion Is Back in Business – Our esteemed colleague Alan Freeman has restarted Audion Magazine after a seven year hiatus. The new incarnation is available online on their Bandcamp site. Audion's history goes back to 1984, and included 58 issues up to 2013. Issue #59 is available now, and #60 is in the works. » Read more
Romantic Warriors IV – Krautrock (Part 2) Is in the Works – Zeitgeist Media, the people who have brought us the great series of documentary films chronicling the history of progressive rock, are working on the second installment of their examination of German music. Krautrock 2 will focus on artists from Münich such as Guru Guru, Amon Düül II, Xhol Caravan, Kraan, Witthüser & Westrupp, and Popol Vuh. » Read more