Reviews for MJO's Recent Album 'Take It All'
Roots Music Report:
Review from Bill Milkowski:
Bill Milkowski, DownBeat contributor and author of “Ode to a Tenor Titan: The Life and Times and Music of Michael Brecker” and “JACO: The Extraordinary and Tragic Life of Jaco Pastorius, The World’s Greatest Bass Player.”
The MJO is a smart, kicking ensemble that covers a wide range of moods, textures and zones on Take It All while swinging
authoritatively and flashing some virtuosity along the way.
The late Fred Sturm’s title track (his radical reconstruction of the Tin Pan Alley jazz standard “All of Me”) is a masterwork of
arranging. Think Mingus’ Jazz Composers Workshop or Kenton’s City of Glass. Full of dissonance and intricate, complex passages
that challenge the listener with a myriad of harmonic implications, it eventually opens up to a freewheeling improv section that
showcases Kyle Seifert’s bold, uninhibited tenor blowing. And yet, this piece also swings madly, particularly during Dave Katz’s
brilliant trumpet solo. Easily the most provocative track on Take It All, it stands as a testament to Sturm’s fertile imagination and
his great legacy as a gifted composer-arranger.
“We All Love Eddie Harris” is a large ensemble extension of Milwaukee native David Hazeltine’s funky homage to the great
saxophonist and jazz-funk pioneer, a tune which originally appeared on One For All’s 1999 Criss Cross album Onward and Upward
and was more recently reprised by the pianist-composer on his 2014 Smoke Sessions album, For All We Know. Carrying a decided
“Cold Duck Time” boogaloo vibe, this tune is highlighted by potent solos from tenors Kyle Seifert, trumpeter Mike Betz, pianist
Jim Sodke (another charter member of Opus) and drummer Hanrahan.
“Sweet Georgia Brown” finds the MJO engaging in some playful swinging and reharmonization on Curt’s ambitious arrangement
of that age-old jazz jamming vehicle. Hanrahan delivers a spirited soprano sax solo here and is followed in kind by trombonist
Kyle Samuelson, bassist Tim Hanrahan (Curt’s son) and guitarist Lewandowski. Catch the Four Brothers-styled horn interlude at
the 4:30 mark.
“Definition” is another piece that reveals itself gradually, like peeling back the layers of an onion. It opens on a contemplative
note with some stirring rubato statements before finally segueing to bristling waltz-time swing mode at roughly the 1:30 mark.
Guitarist Steve Lewandowski (Curt Hanrahan’s bandmate for over 40 years in the Milwaukee-based and Opus) is in tight lockstep
with Hanrahan’s soprano on the unisons of this jaunty head before Steve breaks loose for a soulfully articulated, flowing solo.
And as the band builds to a crescendo, Curt’s brother Warren puts an exclamation point on the powerful proceedings with a
brief drum solo.
Curt Hanrahan’s suite-like “Covidity” (a perfect anthem for these times) opens with the swaggering funk refrain (think Freddie
Hubbard’s “Red Clay” with the exacting horn punch of Frank Zappa’s “Waka/Jawaka”) then shifts on a dime at the 1:58 mark to
the uptempo swinging section that features a succession of hip solos by Hanrahan on soprano sax, trumpeter Dave Katz and
trombonist Ken Weile. Nice fugue-like interlude with the horns before returning to the driving theme. A superior piece of writing
The collection closes with Curt Hanrahan’s “Souljourner.” The name itself implies a journey, and the MJO does indeed take the
listener on a trip, from thoughtful introspection withNolan Thomas’ gentle flute setting the tone to a sizzling ‘70sfusion fusillades
highlighted by Lewandowski’s distortion-laced skronking and back to the soothing theme with Thomas’ flute soaring over the
top. Now that’s what I call a round trip.