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New England Jazz Ensemble | Live At the Pittsfield City Jazz Festival

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Live At the Pittsfield City Jazz Festival

by New England Jazz Ensemble

Original compositions and innovative treatments of jazz standards by 16-person big band.
Genre: Jazz: Big Band
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Spoken Introduction (Live)
0:18 album only
2. Esprit (Live)
7:09 $0.99
3. His Dreams (Live)
7:10 $0.99
4. Neves (Live)
4:41 $0.99
5. You Don't Know What Love Is (Live)
6:00 $0.99
6. Nasty Masty (Live)
8:08 $0.99
7. Of One's Own (Live)
7:16 $0.99
8. Tron (Live)
6:02 $0.99
9. Nossa Bova (Live)
4:35 $0.99
10. Some Minor Stuff (Live)
5:21 $0.99
11. Pure Imagination / Never Never Land (Live)
11:35 $0.99
12. Silver Streak Shuffle (Live)
6:46 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
New England Jazz Ensemble is a 16-person big band made up of professional educators based in the region (though occasionally we allow a "ringer" from NYC to slip in!). Have you heard the claim "Those who can, do; those who can't, teach"? Don't believe it!! These cats swing their butts off! The band was founded in the early 1990s by pianist/composer Walt Gwardyak and trumpeter Mike Jones. The purpose: To invite new compositions for jazz big band and put innovative spins on jazz standards. Naturally, there is a strong educational component to the band's activities.

Recorded October 15, 2005 at Berkshire Music Hall, Pittsfield, MA, this is the band's first in-concert recording project, and is its fourth CD overall.

Scott Yanow review from All Music:

The New England Jazz Ensemble is a spirited stage band that is comprised of music teachers based in the Northeast. The music on this live CD, which was mostly arranged and/or written by trumpeter Jeff Holmes, pianist Walt Gwardyak and altoist John Mastroianni, hits the usual spots with blues (both major and minor), a medley of standards, some Latin, originals that Stan Kenton might have enjoyed, and a ballad feature. The soloists are solid, the music is conventional, modern mainstream big-band jazz and there are plenty of moments of excitement. The medium-up blues "Tron," trombonist Tim Atherton's showcase on "You Don't Know What Love Is," and the cooking "Nasty Masty" are among the high points. A fine outing.

Jack Bowers review from All About Jazz (2007):

Live! is the fourth album by the sixteen-year-old New England Jazz Ensemble, the first recorded outside a studio. They really should do this more often.

The NEJE wins hearts and minds immediately with Jeff Holmes' exuberant "Esprit (based on "How About You ), the first of a dozen luminous charts by members of the band, all of whom are teaching professionals in Massachusetts or neighboring states. Trumpeter Holmes also wrote the groovy "Silver Streak Shuffle and "Of One's Own, pianist / music director Walt Gwardyak "Neves, "Tron and "Some Minor Stuff, saxophonist John Mastroianni the earnest "Nasty Masty and playful "Nossa Bova. Reinforcing them are sparkling arrangements of the standard "You Don't Know What Love Is (Gwardyak), Joe Lovano's "His Dreams and a medley of "Pure Imagination and "Never Never Land (Mastroianni). Among the soloists, trombonist Tim Atherton is a standout on "What Love Is, while Holmes, Gwardyak, Mastroianni, trumpeters Phil Person and Steve Fitzko, alto Bob DePalma, tenors George Sovak and Larry Dvorin, trombonist Peter McEachern, bassist Steve Bulmer and drummer Jon Mele respond with alacrity whenever their names are called.

Even though recorded more than two years ago, the music presented by the NEJE is fresh and timeless, as any admirable music should be. As such, it remains warmly recommended.

Review from Bill Falconer at Jazz Review:

Just one listen and I had to review the New England Jazz Ensemble's third CD, the 2003 release, A Cookin' Christmas, even though it was March 2004. An exciting band with quality charts! So I recommended to readers that they shop early if only for themselves. Those who have waited for the NEJE's fourth release will be more than happy with Live at the Pittsfield CityJazz Festival.
This Connecticut-based orchestra has been on the jazz scene since 1991. Loaded with regional talent, it furnishes the band's composer/arrangers with an outlet for their works and provides the players with challenging charts. Just about everyone solos. The result is a treat for the ears

For the Pittsfield session, co-founder, pianist and musical director Walt Gwardyak came up with three originals: the intricate "Some Minor Stuff," with a strong trombone solo by Peter McEachern, "Neves," all funky and 7/4, and the swinging blues, "Tron," which gives bassist Steve Bulmer some time up front. Composer/trumpeter Phil Person has us Brazil-bound with his "Nossa Bova." Lead alto John Mastroianni presents an up tempo "Nasty Masty," full of solos, and his intriguing arrangement of Joe Lovano's "His Dreams" with George Sovak on tenor. From lead trumpet Jeff Holmes, there's "Silver Streak Shuffle" in the Thad Jones vein, then "Of One's Own," an interesting 5/4 take on a simple melody with Holmes on trumpet and Mastroianni on soprano, and the high-flying opener, "Esprit," with its quotes and allusions.

In addition to the originals, Gwardyak's chart of "You Don't Know What Love Is" is a beautiful showcase for Tim Atherton's burnished trombone sound. Mastroianni's combination of Pure Imagination and Never Never Land is Latin-tinged rather than poignant - and it works.

The band members are basically the same as on the 2003 Christmas release. What keeps them together? I suspect the answer lies in the opening title, "Esprit." Spirit. You can feel it in their playing. I'll bet their rehearsals are fun.


Saxophones: John Mastroianni, Bob DePalma, Geroge Sovak, Larry Dvorin & Lisa LaDone
Trumpets: Jeff Holmes, Steve Fitzko, Phil Person & Hank Zorn
Trombones: Tim Atherton, Dave Sporny, Peter McEachern & Dave Wampler
Piano: Walt Gwardyak
Bass: Steve Bulmer
Drums: Jon Mele



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