CNY Jazz Orchestra is the flagship program formed by the Central New York Jazz Arts Foundation. The group’s debut album, Then, Now & Again is a collection of modern jazz arrangements with a brazen big band bang. The group takes audiences through musical vistas that kick, flap, jete, shuffle, portabarre, stomp, and tippy-toe through the glades of the drum fills. The group starts off with a continually moving and evolving rendition of the theme song to the famed TV show "Get Smart." The silky side of swing is not only audible but deeply entrenched in "Hip Not Hop," and the soft buds of cool jazz with lightly sprinkled horns on "Eighty One" give the tune an ambrosial vibrancy. The sultry horns and simmering rhythm section are coalesced to a cream puff consistency through "I Loves You Porgy," as the uptempo of "All Things Considered," which pays tribute to the NPR program by that name, is a well-versed dialogue that takes many shifts but never meanders far from the center. The music shows the players who are deep thinkers, those who like having fun, and those who are flaming exhibitionists.
CNY Jazz Orchestra’s music shows many different personalities where not only do opposites attract, but they compliment each other. The sweet melodic crescent phrases of "The Midnight Sun Will Never See" display subtle majestic arcs while the band kicks into a lively big band gambol on "Status Quo." The tune has highs and lows that showcase this bands symbiotic relationship forming intervals of hullabaloos and flatline surfs. The bluesy complexion of "Things Happen" is coddled in swaths of low registered horns and a sluggish tempo. The band suspends creamy textures through "Mr. Sandman" while synchronizing spunky horn jetes through "Shimmer." What is interesting about CNY Jazz Orchestra is that when one section sinks low, another section rises to the occasion and takes over the upper register of the compositions. The band’s quick steps and sashays are perfectly synchronized and melodically orchestrated making the arrangements entertaining and made for ballroom couples who want to have a go at many different styles.
Led by Music Director Bret Zvacek, CNY Jazz Orchestra is an ensemble that was built by the Central New York Jazz Arts Foundation. The members of the ensemble have a strong dedication to preserving the big band art form while moving it into a modern age. The CNY JAF is committed to jazz education and developing music business skills. Established in 1996, the CNY Jazz Arts Foundation, Inc. provides jazz presentations in public and in schools for the entire Upstate New York region. Its list includes The CNY Jazz Orchestra Concert Series, CNY Jazz Arts Institute, Scholastic Jazz James, Jazz in the Square, and a number of other concerts that take place all year round through New York State. If CNY Jazz Orchestra is any indication of the foundation’s purpose, it has merit as an arm of big band jazz.