In the East Coast/West Coast debate, the West just won another point. As a native New Englander, the SFJAZZ Collective was a wholly foreign entity to me until a month ago, when I first heard Live 2007: 4th Annual Concert Tour, the Collective’s limited-edition double album containing their entire repertoire last year. SFJAZZ, the non-profit giant behind the San Francisco Jazz Festival and countless educational initiatives, has been commissioning an octet of musicians known as The Collective to compose and perform elegant jazz all around the world for the past four years. The ensemble had been directed until 2008 by Joshua Redman, saxophonist to the stars and frequent collaborator on a number of national projects. While Redman’s background is impressive (eleven albums; recordings with Corea, Mehldau, & Metheny), the rest of the team shines with an equal brilliance.
The horn section is rounded out by André Hayward (trombone), Miguel Zenón (alto saxophone) and Dave Douglas (trumpet). The legendary Bobby Hutcherson (vibraphone) makes his distinct impression on the album, as well as Matt Penman(bass), Renee Rosnes (piano) and Eric Harland (drums).
Each year the team tackles a series of works from a single great modern jazz composer, and pairs those arrangements with eight original compositions, typically one from each member. In 2007, they chose Thelonious Monk, which followed past productions of Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane and Herbie Hancock. Live 2007 is split between two discs, the first consisting of twelve Monk tracks, the second containing the eight original works.
The first disc begins with the standard “Brilliant Corners,” with Hutcherson offering the first remarkable solo and the rest of the crew following with equal aplomb. There isn’t a true highlight on the Monk disc, since the entire Collective plays so seamlessly together. Some personal favorites, however, include the ensemble horns on “Criss Cross,” Penman’s dexterous strumming on “Oska T,” and Rosnes’ delicate touch on “Crepuscule with Nellie.” The disc of original compositions is perhaps even more impressive, with Douglas’ masterpiece “San Francisco Suite” virtually stealing the show. “Lion’s Gate,” composed by Rosnes, is a notable and exquisite piece, as is Harland’s vivid “Union.”
The sound quality on Live 2007 is crisp, clean and alive. With a total running time of well over two hours, this album is a must-have for serious Monk followers. Not to mention, both Hutcherson and Redman have parted ways with the Collective for the 2008 season, so this is the last official recording to include the pair. Only 3,000 copies of this set will be sold, so don’t wait until your birthday to ask for this one.
JamBase | Golden Gate
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