Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Big Heart Machine - Self Titled (Outside In Music, 2018)

Big Heart Machine is an eighteen member big band led by multi-reedist Brian Krock that combines elements of contemporary classical music with jazz and was produced by Darcy James Argue, whose own large ensembles have redefined the notion of big band jazz over the past dozen years. The opening track,"Don't Analyze" builds gradually, developing a colorful soundscape, incorporating thick bass and organ or synthesizer amid the horns and percussion, to give the music a unique flavor. Sections are opened for soprano saxophone, leading into the first section of a much longer suite "Tamalpais- I. (stratus)" which has a mysterious opening of long tones and skittish percussion, resolving into a wave of full rich sound, which conveys the awe and wonder of the natural world. "Tamalpais- II. Steep Ravine" develops an insistent percussion and piano rhythm, one that is light and nimble, proving structure and form for engagement with brass instruments that fill in the sound and intensity, then adding some explosive guitar and keyboards to power the music forward, washing out into a period of white noise which in turn develops into the quiet and meditative "Tamalpais- III. Stinson Beach." Aching trumpet leads the larger group into the performance, one that achieves a sense of majesty with an ever shifting percussion quality and horns that bubble up from the simmering music. Tenor saxophone changes the nature of the piece, soloing strongly over a much more urgent and undulating backdrop that swells dramatically to punching and squalling horns and guitar. Chunky rhythm and spirited vibraphone usher in "Tamalpais- IV. Dipsea Steps" as horns engage with the percussive music, pulling through varying shades and hues before the electric guitar tears through the veil with a strongly distorted sound accompanied by brass, before dropping suddenly into a more nuanced feel as a twisting and turning sensation develops, leading the suite to a memorable conclusion in "Tamalpais- V. (cirrus)." Spare trumpet is played unaccompanied, with instruments gradually filling in the sound, growing organically to incorporate reeds and other horns. Strummed sounds and pitched reed open "Jelly Cat" with clashing sounds and a tight drum groove. The music waxes and wanes dizzily, leading into a well controlled brass interlude, with light saxophone asides which are appealingly melodic and episodic with punchy full band jabs. Handclaps and percussive piano underpin the finale, "Mighty Purty" anchored by an excellent trumpet feature framed by rippling piano. The music contains of a series of loosely connected parts, all of which fit together into a more cohesive whole which ends the album on a positive note. Big Heart Machine - amazon.com

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