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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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Big Band

Analekta AN 2 9869



1. Puzzles
2. Ballade Pour Riki
3. Blues 12
4. And One For Chick
5. Bleu Silence
6. New Morning
7. Romanza
8. 5th Avenue
9. Bill
10. Samba

Lorraine Desmarais – Piano and Conductor
Jean-Pierre Zanella, David Bellemare, Andre Leroux, Richard Beaudet, Jean Frechette – Saxes
Muhammad Al-Khabyyr, Dave Grott, Richard Gagnon, Bob Ellis – Trombones
Jocelyn Couture, Ron Di Lauro, Jocelyn Lapointe, Aron Doyle – Trumpets
Frederic Alarie – Bass
Camil Belisle – Drums


Big Band, Canadian Lorraine Desmarais’ latest record on the classical label Analekta, continues a tradition of big band playing, composing and arranging that has a distinctively Canadian context. Whether Rob McConnell and the Boss Brass, the Jim Galloway Wee Big Band or Vic Vogel’s Big Band, all have established world-class standards that Desmarais now emulates. Previous recordings have featured her in trio or quartet settings and, while this is her first big band recording, this is not her first big band experience as she was a guest soloist in 1998 with Diva, the all-female big band.

This current aggregation of highly-regarded Quebec-based jazz musicians was originally formed in 2005. On this disc, which has ten Desmarais compositions, the charts exemplify her influences which include Maria Schneider and Vic Vogel. The band plays these arrangements with precision and they run the gamut of textures, styles, and tempos all of which provide a solid foundation for the soloists including Desmarais’ own strong playing.

The album has many first-rate tracks, starting with Puzzles which is an up-tempo charmer with strong solo work by Jean-Pierre Zanella on soprano sax and Aaron Doyle on flugelhorn. Blues 12 has a big climax moment and Romanza again features Jean-Pierre Zanella on alto. Another great track is And One For Chick which demonstrates the tenor sax work of Andre Leroux and which was written for Chick Corea, with whom Desmarais had played some years previously at the Montreal International Jazz Festival. The disc closes with Samba, a Latin-flavoured tune that showcases the alto sax of David Bellemare.

To sum up, this is a meticulous and well-structured jazz orchestra with tight ensemble playing overlaid with the finesse of Lorraine Desmarais’ piano. For those who may be unfamiliar with Desmarais’ work, this is an excellent introduction.

Pierre Giroux

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