George Lewis/Now Orchestra Shadowgraph Series

This is the third collaboration between the New Orchestra Workshop and AACM trombonist George Lewis in recent years. These collaborations are significant: NOW is one of the best jazz orchestras around and George Lewis is a celebrated arranger who has worked with forward thinking musicians and bands throughout the world. This suite is at times funky, massive and minimal as Lewis's arrangements explore the various combinations possible in a large array of musicians. Lewis employs conventional notation and "graphic shorthand" to direct traffic. These pieces were written mostly during 1975 to '77 years, and the arrangements remain as provocative as they ever were in various earlier recordings. The "Shadowgraphs" are dense to the point of overcomplicated, at times, but the orchestra is always on point, fully in sync with Lewis's ideas. There are many satisfying extended passages. Some are all out grooving sessions like "Hello/Goodbye," others are quality solo passages, like the always fine Paul Plimley spiking "Shadowgraph 3" with momentum-building piano. Lewis plays outstanding trombone throughout. One minor issue: the recording sounds a little on the compressed side; Dylan Van Der Schyff's drums sound particularly tight. A little more liveliness might have brought out more subtlety in the dynamic changes in the music. However, nothing ever gets lost in the sound and the many combinations of voices comes through clearly. Another great CD from NOW and Lewis. (Spool)