May 18, 2024

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CD review: The Verve Jazz Ensemble – All In – 2023: Video, CD cover

When drummer Josh Feldstein joined forces with tenor saxophonist Jon Blanck to form the Verve Jazz Ensemble back in 2006, the band was a quartet.

Those who can appreciate the long expansive arc of jazz, and celebrate it for its intrinsic and emotional value – independent of record sales or radio airplay – will revel in the originality and respectful hard bop focus of the latest from the Verve Jazz Ensemble, All In. This is album #8 for the New York-Tri State-rooted ensemble, returning to the septet configuration first road-tested on their #1 radio airplay album from 2018, Connect the Dots.

With the return of Alexa Tarantino and Willie Applewhite, the core 5 VJE + 2 leans into an engaging mix of standards, off the well-trod path classics, and two originals by the band’s trumpeter, and album Executive Producer, Tatum Greenblatt. EP Greenblatt describes the record’s jumping off point as “a mid-20th century Americana kind of vibe.” From “a simmering pot” of possible tune choices, he and VJE leader and drummer Josh Feldstein selected the record’s 10 programming choices.The resulting arrangements and compositions are fresh and yet comfortably familiar, like the VJE’s demeanor on stage.

Over the intervening years that foursome expanded and morphed, eventually becoming a septet for several tracks on 2018’s Connect the Dots. The growth and change has only intensified since then, as this group’s sixth album showcases half a dozen configurations across 10 numbers.

Opening with the title track, the first of several hard-bop happenings, the full force of the septet is on display. The ensemble deftly shifts from swing to Latin, putting a four-horn front line to good use and leaving space for strong and concise solos.

Of particular interest is the interplay of sax, trombone, trumpet and flugelhorn. The creative arrangements allow for some sizzling brass and woodwind interaction.

I try to leave it to listeners to decide what they enjoy. The level of musicianship and integration between us as a band is what I love most about the VJE, I’d say. When I listen to a recording, I have to separate my subjective experience as a recording artist from the end product of the music, and that is sometimes easy and sometimes more challenging. For example, “All In” was recorded the day after my very close Uncle died. I’d been helping him for months toward the end of his life. He died literally like 12 hours before the recording date. I still had to go into the studio for days and give it my best effort. So “All In” was an unusual personal circumstance to record an album for me! The VJE has a number of new projects planned for the recording studio, and our group’s trajectory will continue to grow and expand. There may be a surprise or two coming up the road, so stay tuned! We also have an exciting live performance coming up on August 25th in Worchester, MA. The band will be headling the “Jazz at Sunset” concert sponsored by Boston NPR radio station WICN and the Hanover Theatre,- an interview with me said drummer Josh Feldstein. 

A few examples of the greatness exhibited by this very talented ensemble. I urge all jazz fans to check this out by clicking on the link below. I have not heard the band before. Well, better late than never as this album will be a real treat for jazz fans.

1 All In 5:39
2 Midnight In The Air 3:28
3 The Odd Couple Theme 7:34
4 Pensive Miss 3:39
5 Ain’t That A Kick In The Head 5:16
6 Once I Loved 3:56
7 Studio J 5:55
8 What I Meant To Say Was 5:23
9 Bluesette 4:39
10 Dolphin Dance 6:11

Josh Feldstein – Drums
Tatum Greenblatt – Trumpet
Willie Applewhite – Trombone
Alexa Tarantino – Alto Sax, Flute
Jon Blank – Tenor Sax
Matt Oestreicher – Piano, Guitar
Elias Bailey – Bass

Buy from here – New CD 2023

The Verve Jazz Ensemble -

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