DREAMING BIG REVIEWS
FROM STEVE CERRA'S JAZZ PROFILES BLOG (5/22/17):
In an era of self-produced CDs that appear in my mailbox by the fistful, what usually arrives are recordings that are heavy on self-promotion and light on quality music.
Let me emphasize at the outset that this is not the case with Brett Gold’s Dreaming Big [GFR 1701] which releases June 16, 2017 on Gold Fox Records.
The music on Brett Gold’s new CD is not an idle preoccupation; not in conception; not in perception. You gotta pay attention, but if you do, I guarantee that it will move your ears in new directions.
Sure the influences are all there: Gil Evans, Bill Holman, Bob Brookmeyer, Neal Hefti, Hank Levy, Jim McNeely,Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, Slide Hampton, Johnny Mandel, Don Sebesky, Nelson Riddle, Billy Byers and Billy VerPlanck.
But these influences have been assimilated and what emerges is Brett Gold’s own style, one that pieces together inspiration from some of the great Jazz arrangers in modern Jazz and then forms voicings, orchestrations and arrangements that contain big band music played in a manner that is altogether new and different.
As trombonist, big band leader and arranger John Fedchock points out on the CD tray plate:
'Dreaming Big … not only breaks new imaginative ground, but also respects that which has come before. Gives the listener a special tour inclusive of the gamut of styles, colors and emotions that a true jazz orchestra is built to sustain.'
In many ways, what Brett has accomplished with Dreaming Big is very reminiscent of what Bill Evans postulates in the following explanation of how his artistic growth came about:
'... I always like people who have developed long and hard, especially through introspection and a lot of dedication. I think what they arrives at is usually … deeper and more beautiful … than the person who seems to have that ability and fluidity from the beginning …. And, yes, ultimately, it turned out that these people weren’t able to carry their thing very far. I found myself being more attracted to artists who have developed through the years to become better and deeper musicians.'
With Bill’s statement as a reference point, what Brett Gold demonstrates on Dreaming Big is an assimilation of his influences such that he is able to use them to express his own voice: a personal sound that is the product of his musical conception.
In the case of a big band arranger-composer, this personal “timbre” is proclaimed through the texture or sonorities he employs to generate his unique big band sound.
But what is a musical definition of “texture” which joins with melody, harmony and rhythm [meter] as a fourth building block used to create a musical composition?
Ironically, of the four basic musical atoms, the most indefinable yet the one we first notice is – “texture.”
“Texture” is the word that is used to refer to the actual sound of the music. This encompasses the instruments with which it is played; its tonal colors; its dynamics; its sparseness or its complexity.
Texture involves anything to do with the sound experience and it is the word that is used to describe the overall impression that a piece of music creates in our emotional imagination.
Often our first and most lasting impression of a composition is usually based on that work’s texture, even though we are not aware of it. Generally, we receive strong musical impressions from the physical sound of any music and these then determine our emotional reaction to the work.
So what we hear on the eleven tracks that make up Dreaming Big is Brett’s personal conception, one that makes him different than other Jazz musician, and one - 50 years in the making - that you’ve never heard before..
The USS Gold’s maiden voyage is ably assisted by a bevy of excellent musicians who add their interpretative skills to the mix to help Brett’s music come alive.
If you are a fan of big band Jazz, you can’t do better than this one as Dreaming Big is a notable extension of the classic large form of this music while at the same time bringing much that is new and different to it.
Hopefully, the Jazz world will not have to wait another 50 years to hear more of Brett Gold’s music."
ALL ABOUT JAZZ REVIEW BY JACK BOWERS, 6/12/17 (FOUR STARS):
"What's that you say? A New York-based Jazz Orchestra as admirable as this one whose recording debut was delayed for more than twenty-five years? There ought to be a law! Well, in this case it wasn't the law but a lawyer who sidetracked the orchestra's debut for so many years. His name is Brett Gold, and he set aside his trombone and dream of leading a band while in college, following instead his parents' wish that he pursue a more practical (and financially rewarding) career as an attorney.
'Even as Gold flourished in the field of international and corporate tax law, however, the dream never died, and he decided at last to assemble an orchestra to perform a number of the songs he had written and arranged while looking forward to the "someday" in which his long-held aspiration might become a reality. The result is Dreaming Big, a bright and always engaging mosaic of prismatic colors, harmonies and rhythms that marks the arrival—better late than never—of a bold new voice on the big-band scene.
'As for the music itself, Gold takes his cue from Ellington, Strayhorn, Gil Evans, Bill Holman, Don Ellis, Thelonious Monk and such film composers as Bernard Herrmann, David Raksin and Ennio Morricone, having studied composing and arranging with Mike Abene, Jim McNeely and Mike Holober at the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop. The opener, "Pumpkinhead, P.I." is one of two twelve-tone compositions (the other is "Infinity Row"). There's a stylish mambo ("That Latin Tinge"), a slow waltz ("Stella's") and a faster one ("Lullaby for Lily"), songs inspired by Thelonious (the playful "Monkfish," featuring Frank Basile's rumbling baritone sax), those Hollywood composers ("Theme from an Unfinished Film") and even Shakespeare ("Exit, Pursued by a Bear," a slow blues based on a stage direction from The Winter's Tale). The ambitious eleven-minute finale, written with Gold's Moroccan sister-in-law in mind, depicts in musical terms the Arab-Israeli war of 1948.
'The orchestra is razor-sharp, with impressive solos along the way by Basile; tenors Charles Pillow, Tim Ries and Dave Riekenberg; trumpeters Scott Wendholt and Jon Owens, soprano Mark Vinci, alto Matt Hong, trombonist Bruce Eidem, pianist Ted Kooshian, guitarist Sebastian Noelle, bassist Phil Palombi and drummer Scott Neumann. As debuts go, meticulously planned and superbly executed. Let's hope we don't have to wait twenty-five years for an encore."
FROM RICHARD KAMIN'S STEPTEMPEST BLOG (JULY 21, 2017):
"Perhaps the best part of this album is that, even though the program runs nearly 72 minutes, the music is always involving, with melodies that capture your mind and heart, emotionally rich solos, and, on several tracks, great forward motion.
That 'forward motion' is quite evident on the opener, 'Pumpkinhead, P.I.' Yes, there's a bit of stop-and-start but the band really romps under the hardy tenor solo of Charles Pillow. There are also several tracks that exude joy. 'Lullaby for Lily' was composed shortly after the arrival of the composer's daughter. After a high-stepping opening, the music slows for a sweet soprano sax solo from Mark Vinci who later trades lies with trumpeter Scott Wendholt. Whereas 'Stella's Waltz' was composed to honor the marriage of Gold's father and stepmother. One can see the couple whirling around the floor dancing to the sweet melody as it passes from section to section. William Shakespeare devotees will be pleased to see the song title 'Exit, Pursued By A Bear' as it was one of the few stage directions the Bard ever wrote. The subtitle, 'Slow Drag Blues', could be the real title as the song is a vehicle for a jocular trombone solo from Bruce Eidem and a short, sweet Phil Palombi bass solo. Pay attention to how the various musicians also have a playful role, especially the flutes, bass clarinet, and bass trombone right at the end.
Two of the pieces have a connection to the Middle East. 'Al-Andalus' (which refers to Spain during the Muslim rule from the eighth Century until 1492) bounces along on a beat that has the feel of Gil Evans-Miles Davis and 'Sketches of Spain'. Kudos to trumpeter Jon Owens for a great and wide-ranging solo. The final track on the album, 'Nakba', is the longest (11:30) and the most political. The word is Arabic and translate to "catastrophe" is the term that Arabs use to describe the 1948 war after the partition of Palestine created the state of Israel. The "voice" of the song is Tim Ries on soprano sax but pay attention to the great work of the various sections. The flowing melodies from the reeds, the intense rhythm work, the sharp sound of the brass (and occasional "air-raid" warnings), the occasional "alarm-like" sounds from the piano, all that and more draws the listener into the conflict in and outside of the music. Powerful music, indeed.
'Dreaming Big' is certainly the modus operandi for composer and arranger Brett Gold. He's put his heart, soul, money, brains, creativity, and more into this project; this is music that deserves to be heard. Lord knows if this is a band that will ever tour but, if they do, I would not hesitate to buy a ticket."
FROM JAZZ WEEKLY REVIEW, BY GEORGE W. HARRIS (8/17/17)
"Composer/arranger Brett Gold leads an impressive and modern jazz orchestra through a rich mix of textures and themes. The rhythm team of Ted Kooshian/p, Sebastian Noelle/g, Phil Palombi/b and Scott Neumann/dr is flexible enough to work successfully through pieces like the peek-a-boo bopper “Pumpkinhead, P.I.” as well as the mysterious “Nakba,” benefited by Tim Ries’ serpentine soprano sax solo. The orchestra is able to change themes at the flick of a baton, going from Hitchcockian to easy swing on “Infinity Row” while floating like subconscious ideas on the wispy “Dream Moon,” as Noelles’ guitar adds extra cirrus clouds on the latter. The sections work well as teams, getting quirky on “Monkfish” and gentle during “Lullaby For Lilly” while still allowing enough space for solos by “Scott Wendholt’s flugelhorn or Frank Basile’s baritone sax. Impressive-any chance of a gig on the Best Coast?"
FROM MARC MYERS' JAZZWAX BLOG (8/5/17):
"Skillfully executed with warm, beautiful solos, particularly flugelhornist Scott Wendholt."
FROM CHRIS SPECTOR'S MIDWEST RECORD (5/23/17):
"Talk about making your parents kvell and still coming out a winner on your own terms in the end. Gold ditched his musical path to become a hot shot, New York tax lawyer. 25 years in, he gave the profession a Danny Thomas “ent!” and found his way into some rarified air circles---and not just because he could right a check to make friends and influence people. His love of odd time signatures shows his love for Don Ellis as well as “West Side Story” on this audacious debut that hits it out of the park. Hanging with the crème of the crop rather than looking for new talent to develop, there’s no room for mistakes here and none are made. A late blooming jazz voice, Gold really validates how you’ve had a whole lifetime to make that first record and this bodes well for all those things that have been bubbling under while this was distilling. Fresh sound that works well, this album really is gold."
JAZZ STATION -- ARNOLDO DESOUTIERO'S BLOG -- BIG BAND CD OF THE MONTH FOR JUNE 2017 (FOUR STARS FOR MUSICAL PERFORMANCE AND SONIC QUALITY)
FROM AMAZON TOP 500 REVIEWER DR. DEBRA JAN BIBEL:
"Much influenced by Don Ellis and the exploration of time signatures, Gold composes and arranges some clever tunes of wide stylistic range that features solos by band members. The noir 12-tone Pumpkinhead, P.I. introduces the album with elbow angles and soprano saxophone. The flugelhorn is the lead of the simple, lyrical, upbeat Stella's Waltz with some 5/4 bars to make it interesting. Dream Moon is painted by soprano saxophone and guitar in Gil Evan's fashion. Next is a trip to Spain, al-Andalus (Gold's sister-in-law is Moroccan), with 11/4 and 5/4 meters, trumpet solo, and Arabo-Flamenco flavors. Lullaby for Lilly is not some gentle, quiet song but a soft-edged yet bright waltz for reed and horn solos. The moderate tempo blues, Exit, Pursued by a Bear, brings the bassist and lead trombonist forward in a Neil Hefti and Bob Brookmeyer-influenced arrangement. Infinity Row is another dark 12-tone piece for tenor saxophone exposition, but the mood is transformed with the following Theme from An Unfinished Film, with shifting shadows and scenes. That Latin Tinge is a change of pace, with the drummer taking a key role in the 7/4 mambo. Monkfish is Monkish for the baritone saxophone's turn. The concluding work takes on a world political aspect with Nakba, meaning Catastrophe in Arabic, and relates to the festering Palestinian-Israeli conflict since 1948. The soprano saxophone wails with Arabic and Jewish motifs, including hints of Hatikva, the Israeli national anthem, and the orchestra becomes embroiled, ending with dissonance. Gold and his jazz orchestra gives the fan of Gil Evans, Don Ellis, and even Ellington sonic joy with colorful writing, strong, sophisticated arrangements, rhythmic variation, and broad musical knowledge. Brett Gold and his fellow musicians have established an original, unique jazz sound, a voice. This is an outstanding debut and I want to hear more."
FROM CADENCE MAGAZINE (JULY/AUG 2017):
"What is hip is the soloing that includes Charles Pillow [clt], Scott Wendholt [tpt] Matt Hong [as/clt], Mark Vinci [sax/flute], Dave Riekenberg [reeds/flute] and Tim Ries [flt/reeds] among others out of this 18 piece orchestra. Both the writing, which is challenging and never boring, and the fine solo work, make this undated CD a success."
VARIOUS RADIO STATION MUSIC DIRECTORS:
"Surprisingly good big band arrangements. Especially liked 'Dream Moon' and 'Al-Andalus' and hope to have them on the show soon.
I'm glad you and others continue to support big bands like this. It's part of what feels like a resurgence for the art form." Michael Ambrosino, SoulandJazz.com
"I love big band music and this album hits the spot. A really great release." Nick Davies, Radio Winchcombe, 107.1 UK.
"Really good. Adding it Monday." Bob Stewart, KCCK Cedar Rapids.
"Lovely and inventive. 5 Stars." Todd Steed WUOT, Knoxville.
"Great story. I wonder if Gold's light, happy touch would be as apparent if he had to depend on music for a living? Either way, I'm glad he found his way back to his passion. This music is a gift to the world." Jay Paul, WRUV.
"[Y]our new disc is pretty fabulous and I expect we’ll be playing it for quite some time." Michael Cornette, WUSF.
Five Star reviews from Vermont Public Radio and WOWD in Takoma Park, MD.