I just finished two long days in the studio with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, recording a couple of the projects we all felt so strongly about at the time we performed them live. The first one is Nursery Rhyme Swing, which includes such perennial favorites as Itsy Bitsy Spider, It’s Not Easy Being Green (made famous by the amphibian crooner Kermit the Frog), Pop Goes the Weasel, and Old MacDonald Had a Farm. I know - it sounds corny. But when you hear the arrangements (all done by cats in the band), corny won’t even be an option on the list of possible adjectives to describe it.
The next project, one that is probably more typical of a big band recording project, but no less original in it’s outcome, is the Music of Monk, featuring Marcus “J-Master” Roberts. Some pretty challenging stuff, particularly Vincent Gardner’s atmospheric intro on Light Blue, and the angular bebop line on Skippy (which I spread out over four octaves - piccolo, flute, tenor, and bass clarinet), and Wynton’s deceptably difficult, but hauntingly beautiful arrangement of Ugly Beauty featuring the saxophone section.
I’ve never played with a band that had such a collection of soloists AND writers. I see the direction of this band continually expanding, absorbing the depth of the great history of jazz, but putting it in a context that is quite now.