The Jeff Benedict Big Big Band | The Weather Is Here, Wish You Were Beautiful
by Jeff Becker
The Jeff Benedict Big Big Band is back with a new album called The Weather Is Here, Wish You Were Beautiful. The diverse collection of compositions and arrangements is the second album by the Jeff Benedict Big Big Band. The styles range from straight-ahead swing to New Orleans Second-line with influences from Quincy Jones, Pat Metheny, Michael Brecker, Cannonball Adderley, and Phil Woods. The album presents four original compositions by Benedict and five of his arrangements. The project is also inspired by the sounds of the 1970s – when the big band was frequently heard in T.V. and movie scores, and many of which were written by big-band jazz musicians like Quincy Jones and Pat Williams.
“Moonscape” is Benedict’s original composition motivated by the sounds of Steps Ahead and Michael Brecker. Built on a reggae-influenced drum part and a hip bass part, the big band, performs an exciting texture of counterpoints, elegant ensemble passages, and stirring solos. The solo form is built around a minor groove with a shifting bridge and is brought to life by Paul McKee (trombone), Jeff Ellwood (Tenor Saxophone), and Dave Askren (Guitar) takes the solo during the shuffle feel. Benedict’s writing is beautifully balanced. His control of each section is impressive, and his backgrounds and counterpoint between the choirs are always easy to follow and never sound over-crowded or generic.
Benedict flexes his arranging, soloing, and saxophone soli writing muscle on the standard “Cheek to Cheek.” The song opens we a buzzing intro by the saxophone choir. The melody features each section supporting the melody as Benedict’s alto saxophone playing carries most of the melody. Benedict’s saxophone soli writing is outstanding; the phrasing of the section is together and perfectly balanced. Again, the counterpoint between the different sections is fantastic too. The rhythm section punctuates all the stabs and hits, building excitement and energy.
Benedict has successfully been wheeling along three paths, player, composer and arranger, and bandleader. His writing is deep and cohesive in the jazz tradition, his playing has kinetic flow, and it is evident by the band’s sound, his leadership is filled with nurture, management, and passion. The Weather Is Here, Wish You Were Beautiful is filled with extravagant mastery, and it comes imbued with a spirit of adventure and love of the jazz genre. The big band plays with concentration and the skills of master craftsmanship; Benedict leads them through the tunes and captures something ineffable that can be heard throughout the album.
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