Tag Archives: Big Band

Mathias Heise & The Danish Radio Big Band: The Beast

R-12733024-1543019409-6168.jpeg Mathias Heise is a 25 year old harmonica player, pianist and composer from Denmark. He released a fantastic album of his original compositions arranged for The Danish Radio Big Band last September. The album is called ‘The Beast’ and it refers to Mathias impression of a big band: “A big band has incredible musical powers – almost like a beast that has to be tamed. But once you’ve tamed it, it can do incredible things”.

Fascinated by the sound and the possibilities of a big band it is a dream that became reality with this album. Some of the band members have been Mathias’ teachers and so we also see here the passing of the torch to the next generation of jazz musicians.

The album starts with ‘Para Mi Madre’ a soft and relaxed latin-style song Mathias has written for his mother. The tune has a great melody and a very easy groove that shows the excellence of this band. The soloists are Gerard Presencer on flugelhorn and Nicolai Schultz on flute and these two instruments emphasize the soft character. This tune is one of my favorites on the album.

Para Mi Madre (With English subtitles)

‘Brain Soup’ is the second song and this song is much more serious stuff.  Beginning with a heavy groove the brass sections play an almost improvisational melody in what Mathis Heise called ‘bombastical block harmonization’. The solo is based on modal harmonic sequences but handled perfectly by Mathias Heise. The song has a second part where Jakob Munck Mortensen sings some strange lyrics, accompanied initially by the rhythm section but ending with the brass section playing long notes and Peter Fuglsang on soprano sax improvising over these sound layers. An ambitious sound collage but performed excellently.

The album continues with the title song ‘The Beast’. It starts with the piano playing dissonant seconds over a steady pulse pushed by bass and drums. Tenor sax and a distorted guitar play the melody of the A part, the flugelhorn plays long notes in the B part of the song. The first solo goes to Per Gade on guitar followed by Karl-Martin Almqvist on tenor sax, Kaspar Vadsholt on electric bass and pianist Nikolaj Bentzon. This song features the incredible rhythm section of this big band.

Mathias Heise on harmonica returns with the next song  ‘Repetition’, an ambitious composition. Mathias says about this tune:  “The melodic DNA of ‘Repetition’ is made up of eight notes/intervals that are repeated over and over, but in new ways. The composition is inspired by the principles of the fugue, by Arnold Schönberg’s tone rows and also by Per Nørgård’s infinity series, which enabled me to construct an infinite – in principle – series of notes from the eight original ones”. And he continues: “I see the composition as a representation of the eternal repetition of life in new and beautiful ways”.

‘Evening Coffee’, dedicated to Mathias’ grandparents, is a beautiful ballad, starting with harmonica, guitar, bass and drums and the big band focusing on long notes creating harmonic layers. The first solo goes to Nicolai Schultz on flute followed by duets of flute/harmonica and guitar/harmonica.

‘One Man Army’ was written in honor of Mathias’ philosophical hero, Karl Popper. The song features Nikloaj Bentzon on piano. Bass and drums produce again a steady pulse on which harmonica and piano can rather freely improvise. The big band gets a chance to play an ‘a cappella’ interlude without rhythm section before we hear the main theme again.

One Man Army (Unfortunately Danish subtitles only)

‘Sudden Ascent’ is already the last song of Mathias Heise with the Danish Radio Big Band. Mathias says: “Sudden Ascent is one of my oldest pieces of music, which I composed back in 2013, and I’ve always dreamed of being able to arrange it for big band”. Again, drums, bass and piano provide a pushing groove, the arrangement gives all sections one more chance to shine and we hear excellent solos by Hans Ulrik on tenor sax, Søren Frost on drums in dialog with Mathias Heise on harmonica. This song ends with a great trumpet finale.

The last song on the album is like an encore: ‘Kærlighedsmusik til Anne (Love Song)’ with Mathias Heise playing piano and harmonica. A beautiful ballad in a nice ‘blue’ mood, the harmonies modulate between major and minor and the harmonica got some extra reverb creating additional space.

The songs from the album have been performed live with Mathias Heise as headliner when The Danish Radio Big Band toured Denmark last September. Every single concert received standing ovations from the audience as well as outstanding reviews. ‘The Beast’ even managed to get a full page review in one of Denmark’s biggest broadsheet newspapers ‘Politiken’, which is very rarely seen when it comes to jazz.

To sum it up: An ambitious album with a fantastic big band and a great young artist who earned to be featured this way. Mathias Heise got the chance to materialize his dream and he took this opportunity and created a masterpiece. Please listen!

And finally the album on Spotify:

Dafnis Prieto Big Band: Back To The Sunset

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Cuban-born drummer, composer and bandleader Dafnis Prieto releases the Dafnis Prieto Big Band’s debut album, “Back to the Sunset”, on Friday, April 6, 2018.

Prieto composed and arranged nine tunes for the album,  honoring his musical heroes and mentors including Eddie Palmieri, Chico O’Farrill, Bebo Valdés, Jane Bunnett, and Michel Camilo.

The line-up of the band features 5 saxophones, 4 trumpets, 4 trombones, piano, bass, drums and percussion, almost like a classic big band, the sound however is true Latin jazz.

The CD starts with “Una Vez Más” featuring Brian Lynch on trumpet and is dedicated to Tito Puente, Eddie Palmieri & Brian Lynch. After a long intro, starting easy with bass, drums and percussion, the volume and intensity increases by adding more registers and the trumpet starts with the melody. We hear a Eddie Palmierei-inspired piano by Manuel Valera and a great trumpet solo by Brian Lynch.

The second song “The Sooner the Better” is dedicated to Egberto Gismonti & Jerry González and is a slower tune, but with great dynamics.

“Out Of The Bone” surprises with different modes, starting with a steady beat and switches to a faster Samba-like groove.

The title song “Back to the Sunset” features Henry Threadgill on alto sax and is dedicated to Henry Threadgill & Andrew Hill. It starts very elegiac and gives the soloist the necessary space to perform in his unique and free style.

The 5th song “Danzonish Potpourri”, dedicated to Bebo Valdés, Art Blakey & Jane Bunnett returns back to Latin groove. The melody is nice and easy but the arrangement is very sophisticated changing grooves and dynamics.

“Song for Chico” featuring Steve Coleman (alto sax), dedicated to Chico O’Farrill, Arturo O’Farrill & Mario Bauzá, comes with a great horn section arrangement before Steve Coleman starts with his solo.

“Prelude Para Rosa” (dedicated to Bobby Carcassés & Dave Samuels) begins with a contemporary-jazz piano solo before the band takes over. After tempo and style change from Swing to Latin the main theme is built-up starting with the sax section and culminating after 4 minutes with the trumpets. 

“Two For One” is dedicated to Buddy Rich, Chucho Valdés & Hermeto Pascoal has again a long intro, based on a drum-vamp and shows the band playing under full speed with just a little time to take a breath during the saxophone and piano solo. At the end we get to hear a excellent drum and percussion solo.

The last song “The Triumphant Journey” is dedicated to Dizzy Gillespie & Chano Pozo and the main theme is one of the highlights of the CD. Great melody, excellent arrangement and played perfectly. The first solo goes to the trumpet, obviously, followed by saxophone and trombone solos and ends with the magnificent theme.

This CD is really intense and eruptive, you feel the energy and the power of the music and the musicians. The arrangements are excellent and the band brings together some of the world’s best Latin jazz musicians, many of whom have previously played Prieto’s music in his other bands.

The band  strives to make an impact as a leading Latin jazz big band recording and performing for years to come, and to provide a platform for Prieto to write for big band, a format he fell in love with as a child.

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Here is the complete line-up:

Mike Rodríguez, Trumpet, Flugelhorn
Nathan Eklund, Trumpet, Flugelhorn
Alex Sipiagin, Trumpet, Flugelhorn
Josh Deutsch, Trumpet, Flugelhorn

Román Filiú, Alto Sax, Soprano Sax, Flute, Clarinet
Michael Thomas, Alto Sax, Soprano Sax, Flute, Piccolo
Peter Apfelbaum, Tenor Sax, Soprano Sax, Melodica
Joel Frahm, Tenor Sax, Soprano Sax
Chris Cheek, Bari Sax

Tim Albright, Trombone
Alan Ferber, Trombone
Jacob Garchik, Trombone
Jeff Nelson, Bass Trombone

Manuel Valera, Piano
Ricky Rodríguez, Acoustic & Electric Bass
Roberto Quintero, Congas, Bongos, Percussion
Dafnis Prieto, Drums & Music Director

Special Guests:
Brian Lynch, Trumpet (Track 1)
Henry Threadgill, Alto Sax (Track 4)
Steve Coleman, Alto Sax (Track 6)

Produced by Dafnis Prieto & Eric Oberstein

For More Information on the Big Band
visit http://dafnisprietobigband.com