Portland Jazz Orchestra – Good Morning Geek

Portland Jazz Orchestra
Good Morning Geek
Charley Gray, Director
PJO – 2009

From Paul Mazzio’s sultry, feline-chic flugelhorn in the cha cha “Lucy,” to the sonorous ensemble of “Knuckleball,” which rocks its way through a virtuosic saxophone soli, raucous brassiness and a familiar sports anthem with both wit and sophistication, Good Morning, Geek is a potpourri of stylish new orchestral jazz from composer/Portland Jazz Orchestra director Charley Gray.

Driven by consistently keen clarity in orchestration and a full-throttle, take-no-prisoners rhythm section-drummer Alan Jones, whose “supple pulse nudges and drives as it colors and shades” (Jazz Times) and widely versatile bassist Tom Wakeling, plus up-and-coming pianist Dan Gaynor-Portland Jazz Orchestra’s master improvisers shine, lending the record further artistic distinction and creative vehemence.

“Unlikely Event,” with its grandiose, open harmonies, conjures Coltrane’s Africa/Brass, and highlights tenor saxophonist Tim Jensen’s loose improvisational style-a pairing of chromaticism and melodicism; the ballad “Lars Attacks” (Gray’s most recent composition), is inspired by the folksong “Gracias a la Vida,” and focuses on trombonist Lars Campbell’s rich, ethereal tone and fluidity of range. Other improvisers include trumpeters Farnell Newton and Matt Carr; saxophonists Tim Bryson, Scott Hall, Mary Sue Tobin and Bryan Dickerson; and trombonist John Moak.

As much about tight ensemble and technical finesse as it is improvisation, Good Morning, Geek is a wide-ranging testament to the talents of composer and band alike, leaving little doubt that Portland Jazz Orchestra has arrived on the recording scene as one of the premier jazz ensembles on the West coast.