Gordon Lee's Flying Dream
is more pretentious than it is good. However, since it strikes me as very pretentious, that means there is still plenty of room for it to be pretty good. Though Lee writes in several different styles, the arrangements tend to favor the same instruments and the tracks end up sharing a certain sameness. Some of the tunes are clever, which is good; rock guitar legend Nigel Tufnel once noted that there is a fine line between clever and stupid. I would add that a similar delineation separates the former from smug as well.
In the liner notes Lee claims to be influenced by a host of composers including Ellington, Mingus, Mahler and Stravinsky. Well, aren't we all? It's good that he included those names, because I might not have guessed them all based solely on the aural evidence. Ellington sure, Mingus not so much, Mahler I'll take his word for. "Bitter Wind" actually does include some material that seems descended from Stravinsky, but Zappa did that sort of thing better.
"Tobacco Monkey" is a comedic romp with an anti-smoking message that "makes fun of the blues," in Lee's own words. It is humorous, as is the set closing "Alternative Blues," named with intended irony. But they leave the question of whether Lee & the GLeeful (sic) Big Band can play the blues open. I'd rather smoke and listen to the blues than hear some fellow preach against them. But, hey, to each their own. I'm sure the GLeeful Big Band is an excellent group to go see if you are stuck in the Portland area, but the CD is optional for the rest of the country.