Our critics are listening to Melodic, Dave Slonaker Big Band
05:33 PM, Dec 30, 2013
EFFRA PARADE. My fears have proved unfounded that I’d be driven crazy after two or three songs: I’m diggin’ the melodica. It sounds like a toy, but it’s the signature on this debut album by a very cool British folk outfit. Gently mixed with percussion, flutes, ukulele, marimba, horns, autoharp and the lute-like charango, the sound feels South American. The Melodioc carries its minor-key attitude along as well on oboe, cello, viola and a ghostly piano. The harmonies and the lyrics walk a bridge between Fairport Convention and the 21st century, and it’s not all granola. “Ode to Victor Jara” is a simple celebration of the Chilean folk singer executed during a CIA-assisted military coup in 1973, with the line about how “his song was gentle, his song was strong” sounding like The Melodic’s blueprint as well. A very accessible, smart album.
DAVE SLONAKER BIG BAND
INTRADA. Big band, that rare and especially challenging and wonderfully rewarding form of jazz, gets a grand shot in the arm with this outing from noted jazz and film composer and arranger Dave Slonaker. Intrada features nine original tracks, and a sprightly take on “It’s Only a Paper Moon.” All 10 songs are given invigorating and creative arrangements and performances. And Rochesterians can be proud, because training at the Eastman School of Music was a factor in the music created. Slonaker is a graduate, and several others in the 17-piece orchestra have studied and/or taught at ESM, including Ed Czach, Clay Jenkins, Bill Reichenbach, Brian Scanlon and Bob Sheppard. The best of big band music incorporates tight harmonies, is propelled by punchy rhythms, and offers lyrical solo beauty, and that’s all to be found in Intrada. No wonder the disc has just been awarded a Grammy nomination as best large jazz ensemble album. We’ll discover at the end of January if Slonaker will take home the award. But he’s already created a winner.