The Shadowgraph Series: Compositions for Creative Orchestra
The Shadowgraph Series: Compositions for Creative Orchestra
By the time of this recording, the Canadian-based NOW Orchestra had established itself as perhaps the leading (and one of the few) free-style jazz-oriented large groups in North America. Boasting some exceptional talent, such as pianist Paul Plimley, cellist Peggy Lee, and trumpeter Rob Blakeslee, the Orchestra combines an affinity for sophisticated compositions with its propensity to work with acclaimed guest musicians. This is the orchestra's third recording with trombonist George Lewis, whose extraordinary improvisational skills place him in a singular category of world-class soloists. All of the pieces on this recording were written by Lewis, who once again shows himself to be a sophisticated and wide-ranging writer, incorporating a plethora of influences from swing to avant-garde jazz and even postmodern classical music. Lewis conducts his largely complex compositions and also solos convincingly on three of the tracks. While it easy to prefer some of Lewis' acclaimed small group recordings to his big-band works, there are still numerous joys to be found here -- partially due to some of the surprisingly impressive improvisations from the Orchestra's lesser-known members such as saxophonist Coat Cooke and trombonist Ralph Eppel (who has at least partially absorbed Lewis' unique vibrato and style). Occasionally, Lewis' writing gets bogged down in over-sophistication, but when he is in top form, as on his edifying "Smashing Clusters," fireworks explode as he seamlessly blends composition and improvisation. ~~ Steven Loewy, All Music Guide
“I regard the Now Orchestra as one of the finest large creative ensembles active in the last twenty years.” ~~ George Lewis
- Recorded At – Blue Wave Studio, Vancouver
- Alto Saxophone, Baritone Saxophone, Alto Saxophone, Clarinet, Flute – Coat Cooke
- Alto Saxophone, Clarinet, Flute – Saul Berson
- Cello – Peggy Lee (2)
- Contrabass – Clyde Reed
- Contrabass, Electric Bass – Paul Blaney
- Guitar, Electronics – Ron Samworth
- Percussion – Dylan van der Schyff
- Piano – Paul Plimley
- Soprano Saxophone – Bruce Freedman
- Tenor Saxophone, Alto Saxophone, Flute, Piccolo Flute – Graham Ord
- Trombone – Ralph Eppel
- Trombone [Bass], Tuba – Brad Muirhead
- Trombone, Conductor, Music By – George E. Lewis*
- Trumpet – John Korsrud
- Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Rob Blakeslee
- Voice – Kate Hammett-Vaughan
All music written by George Lewis.
Selected four times to Coda Magazine's Writers' Choice lists!
What the critics are saying:
The album fills in two glaring discographical gaps: It is the first recording devoted exclusively to Lewis’ orchestra music, and it contains first recordings of pieces from Lewis’ “Shadowgraph” series of composition from the ’70s; more importantly, it documents Lewis’ ongoing work with Vancouver’s NOW Orchestra, which Lewis considers to be “one of the finest large creative ensembles active in the last 20 years.” Throughout the bracing program, which ranges from pore-opening Latin grooves to ear-twisting realizations of graphic notation, the Vancouverites hand in strong individual contributions, confirming what Lewis calls their ability “to code switch, to work back and forth between the scores and their own improvisational approaches without getting stuck.”
—Bill Shoemaker, Jazz Times
"As well as conducting, he takes a preforming role — memorably so on the ferocious outburst in Shadowgraph 3. While the NOW group is a Canadian ensemble, the sounds and shapes of much of this music are in an almost classic AACM mould, a sharp reconciliation of anarchistic soound, free-jazz experimenting and sudden swerves into ensemble unity. The Orchestra rise famously to the occassion. ***(*)
—Penguin Guide to Jazz on cd Seventh Edition
"Six long tracks illuminate the fertile mind of cutting-edge trombonist George Lewis, who grazes avant-garde territory as he roars and rumbles in the company of Vancouver's NOW troops -- 14 strong and abetted here by the spooky voice of Kate Hammett-Vaughan. ... This is where new music, classical and jazz frontiers merge, and amid the chaos, you'll hear fascinating contributions from saxist Graham Ord, trumpeter John Korsrud, cellist Peggy Lee and guitarist Ron Samworth."
—Geoff Chapman, Toronto Star
"Certainly no other Canadian outfit could respond to the substance and spirit of Lewis's ideas as sympathetically. Typical of its resources, each member is showcased in one or another of the six Lewis compositions here."
—Mark Miller, Globe and Mail
"Although the NOW Orchestra's previous CD was titled WOWOW, it is this one, The Shadowgraph Series: compositions for Creative Orchestra, which deserves all the wowing. ... This CD reaffirms The NOW Orchestra's leading position as one of the best creative orchestras around."
—Francois Couture, All Music Guide
"Though a great trombone player, AACMer Lewis's compositional river has always run deep. A joyous event for George to get a full compliment of West Coast improvisers in a Vancouver based orchestra to work his concep"
—Larry Kusp, Out Front, Out Back
"All of the pieces on this recording were written by Lewis, who once again shows himself to be a sophisticated and wide-ranging writer, incorporating a plethora of influences from swing to avant-garde jazz and even postmodern classical music. ... When he is in top form, as on his edifying "Smashing Clusters." fireworks explode as he seamlessly blends composition and improvisation."
—Steven Loewy, All Music Guide
"Lewis, it should be pointed out, also plays some extraordinary trombone on these pieces. On "Hello, Goodbye," amid a delightful jumble, he provides a trombone flurry of unrivalled mastery. Or on "Shadowgraph 3" he tears through the ensemble with ferocious power."
—Greg Buium, Cadence
"The highlight (of Seattle's Earshot Jazz Festival) -and it was a stunner- was the sprawling concert of original music ... by trombonist George Lewis, played by Vancouver's NOW Orchestra. The well-honed but wild and wooly orchestra seem to breathe along with the creative and dynamic Lewis."
—Paul de Barros, Seattle Times