In 2006 drummer Josh Feldstein established the Verve Jazz Ensemble, a contemporary jazz group playing standards and straight ahead material in the finest venues throughout the Connecticut area without having an album to their credit until this appropriately-titled recording debut It’s About Time. On tap are an array of jazz standards featuring new arrangements and dynamic interpretations of music from the likes of Tadd Dameron, Miles Davis, Henry Mancini and Oscar Hammerstein. From bebop rhythms to sweet melodic ballads and swinging romps forged with exciting solo statements, the Verve Jazz Ensemble delivers quite an attention-grabbing first effort drawing inspiration for an encore performance.
Comprised of players from the New York area and elsewhere, the band is essentially a quintet highlighting New York trumpeter Tatum Greenblatt and saxophonist Jonathan Blanck on leads throughout, beginning on Dameron’s bebop classic “Lady Bird.” Bassist Chris DeAngelis and pianist Matt Oestreicher also take their turns on the opener providing stellar solos on a number that sets the stage for what’s to come. Feldstein and crew recorded five versions of each track, with one rendition sounding better than the next, and in post-production made a determination to include alternate takes to three songs (“Lady Bird,” “Softly as in a Morning Sunrise,” and “Big Swing Face”). Needless to say, each take is a winner.
The Buddy Rich staple, “Big Swing Face” is clearly the swinger of the set where Feldstein’s drumming blends a small ensemble sound with a big band approach resulting in a powerful swinging sound. In stark contrast, the band shifts gears in taking on the Davis piece “Boplicity” where the tone is decidedly down tempo with Blanck blowing the pronounced notes. The rhythm section comes to the fore on Mancini’s immortal “The Days of Wine and Roses” featuring the leader on brushes accompanied by the bassist on a minute and a half opening introduction before Oestreicher’s gorgeous dance on the keys.
Feldstein displays his formidable chops on the drums with several well-placed drum solos on the up tempo version of Duke Jordan’s “Jordu” on the final one-take selection of the album. Even though three of the nine pieces are alternate takes, the music is just as inviting as if you’re hearing it for the first time. An all-around solid performance from the Verve Jazz Ensemble, Feldstein and group lay down one impressive recording with It’s About Time making the wait well worth it.
– Edward Blanco