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)