Uh oh, I thought.
You got one of them red caps on the album cover, you start off with "America, the Beautiful" and you follow up with original compositions with titles such as "Fake News," "Repeal and Replace" and "The Great Wall"...what am I getting myself into here? Fortunately, Make Big Band Great Again is not what you think, or it's exactly what you think, depending upon your views. "It made no sense to me that Donald Trump aimed to dismantle the progress of the Obama era while simultaneously presenting himself as a man of the people," composer and arranger Elliot Deutsch explains.
This EP--outside of the patriotic intro, there are only four compositions here--is Deutsch's musical reaction to the 2016 election as someone who depends upon Obamacare and the NEA. He originally intended this album as a tribute to Los Angeles, which is why the final song is titled "Pink Sunset (Over Gray Skies)." You can listen to these four main pieces without attaching any message to them, since this is a bright, jazzy big band performance with a tight groove and solid melodies. If you dig deep into Deutsch's intentions, the music changes.
"Repeal and Replace," for instance, alternates between a tighter groove that represents Trump's vision for health care, and wild sections that describe the actual mess he created. A lone trumpet represents a single citizen trying to navigate the chasm. "The Great Wall" has an enthusiastic and celebratory feel to it which is meant to symbolize the idea of a "migrant-free utopia" while secretly presenting the idea that an easier path to immigration would be the wiser solution.
This is a brave album, just like John Daversa's American Dreamers--one has to think that a majority of big band jazz fans are older and possibly conservative in their views. That brings you back to the title, about making big band great again, and how that might occur in one of two ways--by enlightening the current fans or by bringing in the younger folks who are more in tune with this approach. Then again, music has always been an effective medium for those who cherish free speech. If that brings more people to big jazz, or if that makes some people re-evaluate their values, it's a good thing.
ELLIOT DEUTSCH/Make Big Band Great Again: Pretty much the definition of a working musician, Deutsch didn't set out to make a political record but looking a things from an artist's perspective, that's what's come about. Showing that keeping our sense of humor is an important step in getting through things, his titles speak for themselves. As does the music. There's no politics in these jazzbo grooves that show how important spirit is since big band basically hasn't been self sustaining since...? The chops are there and any straight ahead jazzbo will know this is the stuff. Well done.
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Make Big Band Great Again has received a glowing review in the UK publication Sussex Jazz Magazine.
Although in some quarters, jazz has been regarded as a subversive form of music, big band music has not been considered as a vehicle for protest. Until now.
When he started to write this album, Elliot’s original plan was to pay tribute to his hometown, Los Angeles. But events overtook him. He started to experience a combination of hopelessness and bewilderment.
The first of the five tracks is a short, respectful, big band arrangement of the patriotic tune America The Beautiful. So far, so good.
The next three tracks, all up tempo, hang together, like three movements of a single piece. Their titles hint at the underlying inspiration/ desperation, generated by President Trump’s antics.
Fake News refers to Mr. Trump’s repeated attempts to discredit any source of reliable reporting. The trumpet soloist is Mike Rocha. Repeal and Replace refers to Mr. Trump’s attempts to dismantle the progress made under President Obama, while simultaneously presenting himself as a man of the people. In particular, dismantling the Affordable Care Act, on which the less well-off depend. Will Brahm plays the guitar solo. The Great Wall, inspired by the anti-immigrant rhetoric especially in relation to Mexico, includes Dan Kaneyuki’s alto solo.
Despite its name, the final track Pink Sunset, a ballad, is not a reference to revoking LGBT+ rights, but rather the colourful evening skies caused by chemical smog. Atmospheric flutes and trumpets introduce a trombone feature including Bob McChesney soloing.
I particularly enjoy Elliot’s writing a capella passages in these tracks. Without being aware of the background to this album, the casual listener would consider it as an example, a highly professional example, of twenty-first century big band jazz with late twentieth century popular music influences. I recommend it.
Original review (page 43)
My first French language CD review!
"Make Big Band Great Again" received (what I've been told is) a great review by CultureJazz.fr. If you can read French enjoy:
Malgré sa jeunesse Elliot Deutsch a déjà glané quelques récompenses et il semblerait que cela soit mérité. C’est du moins notre avis. Basé à Los Angeles, il a enregistré cette petite suite (une vingtaine de minutes) dans les studios Capitol ; pourquoi se priver, hein ? Bien que la casquette rouge et le titre de l’album positionnent clairement la démarche anti Donald, ce n’est pas un album à la musique révolutionnaire. Mais son putain d’orchestre ne fait pas semblant de swinguer, c’est le moins que l’on puisse dire, et les solistes sont tous monstrueux de justesse et d’efficacité. Ca sonne et ronronne comme une machine west coast huilée au poil. C’est arrangé avec une science harmonique bien réelle et l’ensemble se promène à des hauteurs qui tutoient les anges (c’était facile). Si monsieur Deutsch pouvait sortir de leurs tombes respectives Julie London ou Jimmy Rushing, Dinah Washington ou Ella et Johnny hartmann, ce serait terrible. Une faute de goût ? On se serait volontiers passé de la minute introductive consacrée au titre « America the beautiful ». Ca jette un doute…
KCXL Radio Interview
Joe Dimino had me as a guest on his radio show, Neon Jazz, on KCXL in Kansas City Missouri. We talked about my early years as a young player and about my influences in writing my new, politically themed album.
Interview with Elliot Deutsch on popular blog
The following is an interview I did with a popular jazz blog about my new album, career, musicality, etc.
Jazz interview with jazz composer & band leader Elliot Deutsch. An interview by email in writing.
JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?
Elliot Deutsch: – I grew up in Chatsworth, CA, a suburb of Los Angeles. My father was (and still is) a NASA scientist by-day and a dixieland musician by-night. I grew up associating jazz music with recreation. My father often took me to his rehearsals and to weekend jam sessions.
JBN.S: – What got you interested in composing for big band? What teacher or teachers helped you progress?
ED: – As a trumpeter, I played in big band starting in high school. I think I was always attracted to the idea that I was somehow in control of the sound of the band. Lead trumpet leads the band’s interpretation of the written music (along with the drummer and the lead alto saxophonist). I wrote my first arrangement for big band when I was in graduate school at Cal State Long Beach. When I heard the band playing my notes I was hooked. During college, I studied arranging with Jeff Jarvis who is best known for his excellent educational-level pieces. Since graduating in 2008, I have picked up lessons here and there with Kim Richmond, John Clayton, Patrick Williams, and Chris Walden. The best catalyst for progress, however, is playing my pieces with a live band. It is immediately evident what works well and what needs work. I always record my early readings and try to listen back objectively.
JBN.S: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?
ED: – When I first started writing, all of my pieces were in the “classic” big band style: swing, with sax soli, shout chorus, etc. I think that I have progressed the way that I have because of my profound respect for the craft of big band arranging. Only in the past few years have I felt comfortable breaking convention and writing in a contemporary style. For my newest project “Make Big Band Great Again” I leaned heavily on modern grooves and high energy composition, while utilizing traditional orchestration.
JBN.S: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?
ED: – To me, the two do not conflict with one another. Intellect, musically speaking, is in the music’s complexity. For jazz music, it is often in the harmony. For large ensemble jazz, the intellect can also be in the texture, in creative ways to utilize the timbres of various instruments. Soul, on the other hand, is all about attitude. Any music, simple or complex, can have limitless soul.
JBN.S: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?
ED: – Yes and no. My approach when writing music is to write the music that I would like to listen to. Hopefully I will find an audience with the same sensibilities.
JBN.S: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?
ED: – I think that young people would really like jazz if they can hear the new, groovy stuff… let them listen to Kamasi, Thundercat, RH Factor … the music that might be more accessible to them. Forcing young people to listen to Coltrane would be akin to expecting young people to understand Hendrix without any context when you can easily get them started with the Foo Fighters.
JBN.S: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?
ED: – I spend a lot of time watching concert recordings on YouTube. It is amazing that I can watch Thad, Buddy, Count, you name it, playing live gigs from my sofa.
Interview by Simon Sargsyan
Recently I was fortunate to work with the incredibly talented vocalist Mark Blake. We collaborated on three songs that I arranged to be purposefully reminiscent of the 1960's Basie/Sinatra recordings. The first two songs have been recently released to Apple Music and Spotify: "It Happened in Monterey" and "Hello, Dolly!". I am very proud of the work that we did together.
We recorded a full 17-piece big band at the historic EastWest Studio One in Hollywood, CA. The music was recorded and mixed by Steve Genewick. Mark's vocals were recorded at Capitol Studios by Jason Lee.
The band was swinging'! Enjoy the music...
Elliot Deutsch has been a fixture of the Los Angeles Jazz scene since 2006, presenting his unique, exciting, and boisterous take on the art form. With two albums under his belt, and a third in its final stages, Elliot is proud to showcase his new big band sound.
The program for May 8th will include Elliot’s award-winning arrangement of Pure Imagination, The Push, as well as several new pieces he wrote for youtube series “Live, Un-Edited Studio Performances.” Deutsch will also be premiering several never-before-performed compositions from his new, unreleased album. These include a series of politically themed, instrumental pieces with titles such as “Repeal and Replace,” “The Great Wall,” and “Fake News.”
“Bringing my big band into its twelfth year, I decided that it is time for a change. I recently put over thirty of my pieces into retirement, allowing me to focus on a modern, funky sound. This change has allowed me to present a clear vision of the present and future of large ensemble music, and to establish my unique voice as a composer. I am extremely fortunate to have some of the very best players Los Angeles has to offer. This will be a momentous night of music.”
Elliot Deutsch has written arrangements for numerous artists including Arturo Sandoval, Take 6, Cheryl Bentyne, Max Weinberg, Columbus Jazz Orchestra, and the Kennedy Center Jazz Orchestra. Deutsch has recently arranged all of the songs for soon-to-be-released projects by crooner Mark Blake, and vintage jazz band Sasha’s Bloc. As a trumpeter, Deutsch has toured internationally with Rock & Roll Hall-of-Famer Solomon Burke, The Urban Renewal Project, and others. He performs weekly with Fine Artist Entertainment’s That Vibe. Deutsch has served on the faculties of Long Beach City College and Cal Poly Pomona and was Vice President of ASMAC (American Society of Arrangers and Composers). He earned his Master of Music degree from the Bob Cole Conservatory at CSULB, and his BA from UCLA. His prior releases include “The Push!” in 2014, and “Weeknight Music” in 2009.
Purchase tickets here.
In October 2017, Elliot Deutsch Big Band met in Capitol Records Studio A to record an album of original large ensemble jazz music. The yet-to-be-titled EP will feature the world-famous trombonist Bob McChesney playing a song that he cowrote with Deutsch entitled "Pink Sunset."
Runaway Blues is live! If you haven't seen the video or heard the song... watch it now.
For the past couple years I have had the pleasure of arranging all of the music for Sasha's Bloc. The band, brainchild of leader Alex Gershman, is a cabaret-style jazz band. Gershman, a Seder Sinai urologist by trade, writes the songs. In the case of Runaway Blues, Bob McChesney (probably the greatest living jazz trombonist) and Alvin Chea (bass vocalist of Take 6) both had their hand at reharmonizing the song and revising the lyric. I had the wonderful job of arranging their flawless work for the 9-piece ensemble.
To top it off, I got to conduct the session at Capitol Studio A. Take 6 was a dream to work with. I have been a fan of their music since I first heard them in college (circa 2001). Not in my wildest dreams would I be standing in front of the world-class ensemble only 15 years later.