The Jeff Benedict Big Big Band The Weather Is Here, Wish You Were Beautiful Review
Saxophonist Jeff Benedict has a long a reining reputation as a top educator in jazz in Southern California, as a Professor Emeritus of Music at the California State University, Los Angeles. Still, in his writing and playing, you will find he goes beyond one that teaches and educates to one that is a force to be reckoned with.
About the Album
The Weather Is Here, Wish You Were Beautiful is the second CD by the Jeff Benedict Big Big Band. The album is adorned with four Benedict originals and five well-chosen standards that reflect the golden era of crème de la crème compositions written by masters. Benedict’s originals stand strongly within the mix.
Our Favorite Tracks
“Ant Dance” is a Benedict original in a meter of 9 (3,3,3) inspired by Pat Metheny’s music. The composition is an example of how Benedict controls the textures of the ensemble to build the piece over the course of the song’s duration. The tune starts with a bass figure and drums, the melody starts low and builds, building as it is passed through various textures of the ensemble with added harmonic voicings and counterpoints to broaden the melody’s scope. Benedict’s clear alto saxophone takes the first ride. His playing is nimble and in the pocket. The backing figures from the band are well-placed and add colors. Dave Askren’s guitar takes the next solo, supported by the brass sections buzzing backgrounds. Benedict shapes the backing figures of the section to keep the music consistent and flowing while still leaving room for Askren to solo. The melody returns, followed by Jeff Hellmer’s solo that serves as the vehicle for the ensemble to reach the climax at the end. Benedict is a masterful composer and orchestrator for the big band.
“The Weather is Here, Wish You Were Beautiful,” the title tune is another outstanding Benedict original. The song is a tour-de-force of rhythmic figures supporting sweeping counterpoints and calls and responses between the various sections. With an up-tempo swing feel, the music is joyful and energetic. Hellmer’s piano takes the first solo, a cheerful tickling of the ivories that is a joy to hear. Paul McKee’s trombone solo is equally energetic, and the background writing by Benedict is outstanding. The shout chorus is where Benedict’s writing skills shine. His voicings and melodic flow are stunning, both based on big band writing and modern harmonic colors. Charlie Richard takes a fine and rarely heard baritone saxophone solo that flows nicely into tenor saxophonist Jeff Ellwood’s solo. Both are fine players. Benedict is a creative writer that understands and uses the power of the Big Big Band!
The Weather Is Here, Wish You Were Beautiful traverses a variety of styles but is wholly cohesive in its playing, presentation, and, most importantly, writing. The arrangements are standouts, and Benedict’s originals are never superficial or phoned in; he offers a measured maturity in his writing that lingers well past the listen. A keeper in the Big Band idiom, offering tasty new nuggets and seasoned favorites.