Composer and arranger Dave Slonaker believes that we are in a new Golden Age for big bands, and considering the success of his debut recording, Intrada (2013), he is probably right. Not only was the album nominated for a Grammy for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album, Intrada also received stellar reviews.
Slonaker´s music is contemporary in the best sense of the word, harmonically sophisticated yet always accessible thanks to an unswerving reliance on time-honoured melodies and rhythms. In other words, this is big band jazz that quickens the pulse, swings hard and enhances the tradition.Jack Bowers of All About Jazz
Slonaker wrote nine numbers of the ten track album Convergency (I Had the Craziest Dream was written by Harry Warren and Mack Gordon), so how does it stand up to the words of Jack Bowers? In short, Convergency stand up very well! From the opening title track to the closing ballad this album if full of texture, colour, wonderful tones and tempo variations.
Dave Slonaker is a long-time fan of ‘Concerto for Orchestra’ by Béla Bartók, and wrote ‘Convergency’ as a mini-concerto for big band featuring different sections and textures as building blocks to a swinging finale. This is a terrific opening track with so much content packed into its seven minutes of playing time but never feeling overstuffed. ‘Duelity’ features Bob Sheppard on alto sax and Ron Stout on trumpet weaving in and out of the melody in a friendly, swinging duel – and swing they do, it is a wonderful sound.
‘A Gathering Circle’ and ‘Inner Voices’ are more reflective pieces that have their own controlled energy about them. The soloists do a great job but it is the horn section that keep the sound grounded along with the steady pulse provided by Peter Erskine on drums. In-between these two tracks sits ‘A Curve in the Road’ built on a four-note motive with a curve in its melodic shape. It first appears melodically in the antiphonal pile-ons of the ensemble at the beginning but is rhythmically foreshadowed by the drums in the first two bars. The effect is a joy to listen to.
‘Sometimes In A Notion’ is one of those tracks that feels familiar, an instant hook. With use of a stop time refrain and an excellent front line lead by trombone and sax this track emphasises what can be done when a composer has multiple instruments at their disposal: that unique blend of sounds seamlessly moving around and between each other – and great use of Edwin Livingston on bass. ‘Vanishing Point’ is another reflective lullaby based tune that calms things down a touch before trombone section takes the lead on ‘And Now The News’. The trombone tone is full and resonant and harks back to some of the very best of the big bands of the golden age of jazz.
I enjoy big band jazz and there are some very good big bands out there and Dave Slonaker’s band holds its own in the genre. Compositionally the tunes are strong and well arranged. The sound produced is terrific, controlled, energetic, emotive, and full-throated. There is something wonderful in the wall of sound that a big band produces but that sound is dependent on well-written and arranged tunes. In Convergency Dave Slonaker has found the perfect blend of rhythm, texture, colour, and melody that should enhance the reputation earned from the release of Intrada.
Musicians: Bob Sheppard, Brian Scanlon, Rob Lockart, Tom Luer, Adam Schroeder/Jay Mason – reeds; Wayne Bergeron, Dan Fornero, Ryan Deweese, Clay Jenkins, Ron Stout – trumpet/flugelhorn; Alex Iles, Charlie Morillas, Ido Meshulam, Bill Reichenbach – trombone; Larry Koonse – electric guitar; Ed Czach – piano; Edwin Livingston – bass; Peter Erskine – drums; Brian Kilgore – percussion.
Tracklist: 1. Convergency. 2. Uncommonly Ground. 3. Duelity. 4. A Gathering Circle. 5. A Curve in the Road. 6. Inner Voices. 7. Sometimes a Notion. 8. Vanishing Point. 9. And Now the News. 10. I Had the Craziest Dream.