"Curiosity" is everything you would want from a band featuring nine horn players, remarkably skilled soloists and great compositions!
"Curiosity" is the continued work of John Vanore and the band Abstract Truth. The concept is the intimacy of the small group backed by the explosive power of the big band. The compositions enable the featured artists to express themselves fully and the big band provides the emphasis for the theme of the composition. Vanore and Abstract Truth conjure up the energy of the legendary big bands, including Woody Herman's various Herds. What is different is the Miles Davis-like sensitivity to the melodies and solos. The expressiveness that Vanore injects into the solos gives the listener places to land between the energetic movements. Those places to land are wonderful islands of musicality.
The first track, "Curiosity" features Vanore on trumpet and tenor saxophonist, Mike Falcone as well as Joe Nero on drums. This track sets the structure and tone of the rest of the work. Frankly, I liked this form and the fact that the songs were not long rambling pieces but were executed to bring the message out, and take it home strongly and in a timely manner. Craig Thomas establishes the tempo and tone on acoustic bass in "Dream Dancing". The horns provide a chorus of voices for emphasis. Ron Thomas' piano work is commendable throughout the CD, but as a counterpoint to the soft tones of Craig's bass and Jose Vidal's trombone work to make this piece a small group success.
"Rude" gets funky and gives the horns something to blow about. Michael Mee on alto injects the raw energy into the composition. The opening notes of the melody of "Return" harkened back to the Miles Davis/Gil Evans collaborations. Ron Thomas holds your attention perfectly with his manipulation of this beautiful melody. You could lay back and listen to the two Thomases work this song all day.
Just when you settle into the warm embrace of "Return", the next track gives you a shot of adreniline to make sure you are listening. "Misdemeanor" is what the big band is all about, energy! Featured artist Michael Mee delivers a strong solo on alto sax. This song moves, fast and slow, but always moves. I loved the dynamics of this song, the speed stays in there even when the volume is down. George Barnett on French horn delivers a powerful solo full of energy, and yet subtle in the undertones of a French horn.
In "Simone" Vanore delivers the full promise of "Curiosity", excellent small group execution bolstered by the energy of his big band and complex textures of melody and dynamics. This composition is for me the highlight of the CD. Mike Falcone's solo is strong and accents the small group element and ties it nicely back to the big band environment.
"Origami" is an interesting little melody that lets the horns play a little bit. But just when you think you are done, and the CD is closing out, "Motion Potion" gets uncorked and the juices start flowing again. This piece is powerful, driving and has "Herd" written all over it. The intermingling of the horns at various changes, and with pulsing dynamics lead up to Thomas' piano work, taking on the role of melody and tempo driver. Listening to "Motion Potion" I was challenged to think of the last time I heard a big band format feature such individual excellence and ensemble precision. Not even Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Orchestra can claim this degree of freshness, skill and execution. It is totally refreshing to see the use of this format of Jazz music in the day and age of individuality and self expression. "Curiosity" is just that, its success is the success of the concept and the players working together.