Artist/s: James Muller and Sydney Conservatorium Jazz Orchestra (SCJO) directed by David Theak
Category: Big Band, Jazz, Music
Label: 54 Records Production 01
Reviewed by Gavin Franklin
“In December 2015, virtuoso Australian guitarist James Muller was the brilliant featured soloist with the SCJO on a tour of the United States. This CD documents the music played on that significant tour.”
The main focus of the tour was to play at the prestigious Midwest Clinic International Band and Orchestra Conference in Chicago. SCJO is the first international band to be invited to play at that conference. The compositions/arrangements performed during the tour are all represented on this disc and were recorded at Systems Two, Brooklyn New York whilst the band was in the United States.
The initial two tracks, Scratch and OKAY are compositions by Florian Ross, a German composer/arranger/pianist who has had a long association with Sydney Con and David Theak, the director of its jazz big bands. (Theak conducted the SCJO on the tour.) These initial compositions contain characteristic stylistic gestures that place the Ross stamp on them – the choice of harmonies and chord voicings across the orchestra, the rhythmic structures and interpolation of solo segments into the texture of the compositions have the feel of Ross’s other work with which I am familiar. He is a modern master of composing/arranging for jazz big bands and any release containing his work is worth time spent on listening to it.
The other tracks are titled Green Eyes, Eindhoven, Kaboom and Chick Corea. All were composed by James Muller, the featured soloist on this recording. Muller has established a strong reputation as one of Australia’s finest jazz guitarists. He is widely respected and admired, especially among the younger members of our jazz community. He currently lives and teaches in Adelaide where his performances attract large attendances from a good cross-section of the jazz audience in that city. In this respect, Muller is doing important work as he attracts and introduces younger members of society to jazz.
Muller’s improvised solos over the pieces on this recording are simply wonderful. They reward the price of the disc many times over. The four compositions listed above are obviously familiar parts of a repertoire that Muller has played and thought about in various instrumental settings for some time. The addition of Florian Ross’s arranging skill and David Theak’s direction make this recording a must-have for anyone interested in contemporary big band jazz.