Composer-saxophonist-educator and Oregon born Tim O’Dell earned Bachelor’s and Doctoral degrees in music from the University of Iowa, as well as a Master’s in Music degree in Jazz Studies from the New England Conservatory. While at Iowa he studied saxophone with Ronald Tyree and Paul Scea, and composition with Donald Martin Jenni; and at New England O’Dell studied composition with Jimmy Giuffre, William Thomas McKinley and George Russell, as well and saxophone with George Garzone and Kenneth Radnofsky. O’Dell currently teaches music at the University of Southern Maine and at Central Maine Community College. From 1993 to 2001 he was Director of Jazz Studies and Assistant Professor of Saxophone at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois.
O’Dell has previous performance experience working with artists such as Danilo Perez, Tim Hagans, George Garzone, Cuong Vu, Louis Bellson, Wycliffe Gordon, David Berkman, Gunther Schuller, Mick Rossi, Willie Pickens, Muhal Richard Abrams, the Aardvark Jazz Orchestra, George Russell and The Temptations. This recording features O’Dell’s compositions performed by the Johnson County Landmark, a band consisting of students and jazz faculty at the University of Iowa. They are directed by John Rapson. This recording was funded in part by a grant from the Maine Arts Commission as well as the University of Iowa Jazz Studies Department and was recorded live in concert.
With the exception of "Mr. ID," if you’re looking for good old fashion swinging big band charts with powerful shout choruses, this is not the place to look. O’Dell’s compositions are thickly scored and rich in extended harmonies with close chordal relationships, such as those heard in the work of Thad Jones. The solo sections are lined up with chord choices that force the soloists outside the box of traditional pattern derived possibilities. The best example of what kinds of solos are called for is the one by trumpeter Brent Sandy on "Extended Steps." Placed into a shifting kaleidoscopic quasi-psychodelic rhythmic bent, Sandy is given an open format chordal framework upon which to construct lines that are the true definition of introspection - open leaning without full round-off escapades ending in tonic resolutions built from small motivic ideas juxtaposed within the soloist’s mind and not meant to elicit excited flag-waving cheers from listeners.
The soloists are all excellent, with special note of the previously mentioned Sandy and guitarist Steve Grismore being able to delve the deepest into O’Dell’s complex structures in order to make the most cogent statements. The tunes are all played well, with the exception of the ending shout chorus to "Mr. ID" which sounds like the participants could have used a little more rehearsal time to get all the lines and notes solidly set and placed together within the different instrumental sections.
As a composer O’Dell writes complex charts that really call upon a number of hearings before a thoughtful and concerted grasp of what O’Dell is reaching for can be understood. This is not an immediately likable collection of charts, instead it is an amalgamation of thoughtfully serious compositions for the modern big band that many times play on concepts usually utilized in classical music: large formal structures, the development of rhythmic motives, large timbral palettes and advanced harmonic configurations. Overall this is thoughtful music that won’t excite, but neither will it, with successive listening, disappoint.