What’s On Your Playlist: Buselli-Wallarab Jazz Orchestra

March 20, 2017

Mark Buselli and Brent Wallarab

Since 1994, the Buselli-Wallarab Jazz Orchestra has presented over 1,000 public performances (including a 12-year weekly residence at the Jazz Kitchen in Indianapolis) and hundreds of educational clinics across the Midwest. The band has recorded eight albums, the most recent being the highly acclaimed Basically Baker, Vol. 2: The Big Band Music of David Baker (Patois) a follow up to their 2005 release Basically Baker, Vol. 1 which was re-released this January. Since 2007, trumpeter Mark Buselli has been Director of Jazz Studies at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana and since 2004, arranger/trombonist Brent Wallarab has been a faculty member in the jazz studies program at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music in Bloomington where he teaches jazz ensemble, jazz arranging and composition, and big band history.

Brent Wallarab’s Playlist:

1. Count Basie with Lester Young – The Savory Collection (presented by The National Jazz Museum in Harlem)

The famous commercial recordings the Basie band produced in the 1930s are among my favorite big band records of all time. Hearing them in live performance is a revelation for us Basie fans, as they perform in an environment more natural than the recording studio. Freddie Green’s guitar, at times offering a few frisky departures from his classic 4/4 time keeping, is ever present as are the instantly recognizable voices of Lester Young, Dicky Wells, Buck Clayton, Herschel Evans, Helen Humes, Jimmy Rushing, and Basie himself. I can’t stop listening to this.

2. Maria Schneider – The Thompson Fields

When Maria Schneider released her first album Evanescence in 1994, I was blown away by the beauty of her writing and have since been in awe of her genius. I treasure all of her recordings and each new one becomes my new favorite. The Thompson Fields is another great work of American art by a composer who tells her very personal story in a very generous way.

3. Walter Smith III – Still Casual

This project could be subtitled “The Art of Melody” as there is gorgeous melodicism happening at every level at all times. This is effortless creativity from the finest contemporary jazz musicians working today. Walter is a colleague of mine at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music Jazz Department, as are the leaders of the remaining recordings on my list.

4. Dave Stryker – 8 Track II

Dave Stryker’s tribute to the pop music of his youth, filtered through classic organ trio instrumentation, tempts one to make the obvious connections to the Wes Montgomery pop interpretations in the ‘60s. Combining sounds, ideas, and musical elements that cross decades, dipping deep into the last century for that matter, has its risks, but Stryker nails it. It’s sophisticated and incredibly listenable.

5. Michael Spiro/Wayne Wallace – Canto America

The way Michael Spiro and Wayne Wallace combine traditional afro-Latin music and jazz standards with chamber orchestra is seamless. At various points it is lush, romantic, nostalgic, profound, and humorous. To offer such diversity in mood while having every track sound perfect next to one another is a mark of superb vision and execution.

Mark Buselli’s Playlist:

1. Miles Davis – In Person Friday and Saturday Nights at The Blackhawk, Complete.

Miles is really starting to build some range on his horn on this 1961 recording. A good friend of mine, Jeff Rupert, was on the road with Maynard for a while and told me a great story. It was Sept. 17th to October 7th of 1959 that Miles and Maynard were playing opposite each other at Birdland. Maynard would ask Miles about improvising and in turn Miles would get tips from Maynard on range building. Maynard really looked up to Miles and they developed a close relationship during this period. Hank Mobley, Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers, and Jimmy Cobb make this a must-have.

2. Greg Hopkins – Quintology

Quintology and the just recently picked up Reality Check are great recordings that feature beautiful playing from a guy who has been on the scene for a bit. Greg was one of my favorite players back in my Boston days and he is still getting better! Very inspirational! His melodies are memorable and Billy Pierce, Mick Goodrick, Jim Stinnett, and Gary Chaffee round out the quintet very nicely.

3. Kenny Garrett – Do Your Dance

I have been a fan since Black Hope came out in 1992. Kenny seems to come up with great melodies with some harmonic sophistication AND great grooves. Vernell Brown Jr., Corcoran Holt, Ronald Brunner, and McClenty Hunter round out this nice recording.

4. Steve Davis – Say When

Been a fan of Steve’s playing a long time. His sound is butter and his harmonic ideas are beautiful. This is a tribute to the late J.J. Johnson and it is wonderful. Eric Alexander, Eddie Henderson, Harold Mabern, Nat Reeves, and Joe Farnsworth make this a keeper.

5. Ted Nash – The Presidential Suite

I just picked this up in October and have really enjoyed it. Essentially the Lincoln Center band with a few exceptions, this really swings hard. The soloists are all top-notch and the writing is really nice. I hear an Ellington influence as far as textures and soloist space go. A real treasure!

The Buselli-Wallarab Jazz Orchestra’s latest release, Basically Baker Vol. 2 (Patois), was released on September 23, 2016.

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