If you have ever been to Canada, you know just how beautiful the country really is. With its stunning landscape and those long cold winters, jazz music is probably the furthest thing from your mind. Jazz lovers don't realize just how many great musicians and artists call Canada their home. From the place that brought us Rob McConnel and the Boss Brass Jazz Orchestra, we now have the Jill Townsend Big Band from Vancouver with their first CD, Tales from the Sea.
Jill Townsend, the band's leader and main composer/arranger, teams up with husband and guitarist Bill Coon to produce some true progressive and intellectually challenging big band music of the contemporary nature. If you're looking for the typical swing style big band, this isn't it. The music is not simple. It's full of vibrant melodies and sophisticated rhythms. The band cranks out a great sound.
There are nine tracks of new, interesting and quality big band arrangements. It seems it is designed to feature many solos from the brass section with tasteful introductions from the light fingered guitar playing of Bill Coon. The second number, "Old Folks," is a moody introspective melodic tune that springs to life through the magnificent alto sax playing of Campbell Ryga, who dominates the entire tune. The band seems only an afterthought. "Whisper to a Roar" is a cut similar in style to an Ellington number complete with the sounds of the muted horn from Brad Turner, a little guitar work from Bill and ending in a roar from the rest of the group.
"Cape John" is one of those tracks that I would definitely put in the progressive category. It is interesting to listen to, especially when you hear the sounds of an actual ocean wave crashing on the shore. You don't hear these kind of things from other big bands. The track I listen to often, I guess because its one of the best on this CD is, "Waltz of the Jellyfish." A fantasic tune that's full of intensity, which starts out with a cool guitar and bass solos building up to a sax solo by Ryga and then a full embrace by the entire ensemble to finish the number. I play this one over and over and some how it is never tiring.
"Amet Island" is a fast pace brassy track that typifies the intelligent charts and sophisticated arrangements that tag this CD. The final cut however, is nothing like the rest of this album. "Blues in Maude's Flat" is a blues number that also swings like none of the other tracks. I guess it's a statement that this band can play any style. Tales from the Sea is one heck of a debut for Jill and Bill. They have put together an amazing band of musicians that under the direction of captain Townsend, can really sail through the charts of that boundless sea of music we call JAZZ!