Alan Ferber Big Band - Jigsaw

Label/Year: Sunnyside Records, 2017

Lineup – Alan Ferber, John Fedchock, Jacob Garchik, Jennifer Wharton: trombone; John O'Gallagher, Rob Wilkerson, John Ellis, Jason Rigby, Chris Cheek: saxophones; Tony Kadleck, Scott Wendholt, Alex Norris, Clay Jenkins: trumpet; Anthony Wilson: guitar; David Cook: piano, keyboards; Matt Pavolka: bass; Mark Ferber: drums; Rogerio Boccato: percussion.


Besides being a skillful trombonist, the Grammy award nominee Alan Ferber is a magical arranger and a focused bandleader. These true gifts make him an inevitable figure in the contemporary jazz universe. As a leader, he got notoriety for conducting a vibrant nonet whose album Roots & Transitions was definitely one of the most irresistible I had the chance to tackle last year.
The same sense of fulfillment applies to Jigsaw, his seventh album of originals, recorded with a 17-piece big band that includes some of the most enlivening jazz artists on the scene.

The superior quality that results from this compositional vision-meets-ravishing arrangements is fully felt on the first track, “Impulso”, an absolutely impulsive, gritty scorch established within a sumptuous, contemporary setting. Flowing at a moderate pace with a Latinized cool spirit, the tune finds the band wading into striking interplay before each soloist begins to express what's going on in their minds, starting with the bandleader, then saxophonist John O’Gallagher, and finishing with trumpeter Alex Norris, who finishes the story.

Guitarist Anthony Wilson handles the introductory section of a song he wrote, “She Won’t Look Back”. He employs slightly dissonant chords modeled by acerbic sound effects, a tactic that beautifully fits the languid air surrounding this half-dreamy, half-conscious pop fantasy. Here, the bass of Matt Pavolka is particularly highlighted.

Reveries of freedom arrive with the title track, whose more abstract, free-form overture obtains a bold avant-gardish tonality created by the kinky sounds flowing from David Cook’s keyboards. In addition to the enticing rhythmic contortions, one can indulge in O’Gallagher’s highly expressive saxophone improvisation filled with volcanic episodes, and there’s also time for a spontaneous percussive escapade by Mark Ferber, Alan’s twin brother.

Contradicting this last tune, we have the silkiness of “North Rampart”, a weeping ballad that besides intelligently harmonized and orchestrated, exhibits a catchy melody imprinted on the head. There’s also the Latin-tinged breezes of Paul McCandless’ “Lost in the Hours”, which acquires a pronounced Brazilian feel, considerably intensified through the action of percussionist Rogério Boccato, especially during the improvisations of trombonist John Fedchock and saxophonist Rob Wilkerson.

Muted trombones and trumpets prepare the ground for the soulfully groovy vibe that sustains “Get Sassy”, a brassy piece reminiscent of Mingus’ exultations, where the amazing teamwork eases the glorious blend of traditional and modern elements. A different concoction was achieved for Clay Jenkins’ “Late Bloomer”, artistically devised to contain unpretentious swinging jazz and brawny rock passages.

Jigsaw is a kaleidoscopic, up-to-the-minute jazz album that doesn’t need frivolous pyrotechnics or radical asymmetries or complicated meters to sound marvelous. It rather uses a genuine reciprocity between the highly committed musicians who, under the keen direction of Alan Ferber, provide another lovely and contagious big band record.

        Grade  A

        Grade A

Favorite Tracks:
01 - Impulso ► 03 - Jigsaw ► 05 - Get Sassy