At the end of last year I posted about "Rhapsody in Blue Live", Scottish National Jazz Orchestra featuring Tommy Smith and Brian Kellock (Spartacus Records 2009), an absolutely knockout recording of creativity that presents the piece as you've never heard it before.
They're back again with "American Adventure" (Spartacus Records 2013) this time augmenting Tommy Smith on tenor sax (and as leader) and the 14 piece orchestra with a stellar group of American jazz players: Mike Stern on guitar, Clarence Penn on drums, Donny McCaslin on flute and tenor, Joe Locke on vibes, Dave Liebman on soprano sax, David Kikowski on piano, Joel Frahm on tenor, Bill Evans on tenor, Kurt Elling singing on one track, Michael Dease on trombone, and Randy Brecker on trumpet. The recording was made last June at the Avatar Stuidios in Brooklyn while the Orchestra was touring in the U.S. and Canada for the first time.
It is an elegant set of seven pieces arranged to maximize the contributions of these stellar players, a set that includes Mingus' "Duke Ellington's Sound of Love", the piece that Elling appears on; Wayne Shorter's "Yes or Know", a great arrangement for the horns and an energetic feature for Joe Locke and SNJO drummer Alyn Cosker; rhapsodic and delicate play on Coltrane's "Dear Lord" featuring David Kikoski and Randy Brecker; a high wire romp on Shorter's "Pinocchio" featuring Michael Dease, Joel Frahm, and Clarence Penn; and the elegant Chick Corea's "Quartet No. 1 (part 2)" for Bill Evans and David Kikoski.
As with the earlier "Rhapsody In Blue" it is the combination of the inviting arrangements, virtuosity of the players, and the energy they produce that makes the set memorable. Seriously creative music with too many great solo parts to enumerate.
Note: For those who do not know Tommy Smith, he is an internationally known tenor sax player with a long list of accomplishments, both leading the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra as well as playing on many other significant CDs, including most recently Arild Andersen's "Mira" (ECM 2013), a beautiful and rewarding set that shows him in a very different but equally beautiful mood.