Material: Composer and conductor Dreith leads a hand-picked, 13-piece ensemble of stalwarts in the contemporary music scene. In addition to a five-piece rhythm section, the big band features woodwinds, brass and, for this performance, a string quartet. Celebrating Dreith’s first jazz/fusion album in 30 years, the group performed the entirety of the seven-song release, along with a three-song sequence of Claude Debussy pieces.
Musicianship: Dreith is influenced by early 20th century classical, with echoes of Copland and Stravinsky. The band roster boasts session and touring musicians with credits ranging from The Rolling Stones to Lady Gaga, so there was no shortage of highly skilled players on stage. Fill-in trumpets Stever and Rocha each offered excellent moments when given the chance to solo, and versatile guitarist Goux shined. Bassist Genova held everything down, providing the through-line for the band to grab on to all night long.
Performance: The show started with the energetic, “Eighty-Six, Ninety-Five, Sincerely,” the first track off the new album. The pace remained strong, with neo-vintage compositions and complex charts keeping the audience and band on their toes. The midpoint featured the string quartet, taking on Dreith’s arrangement of Debussy works. The concept provided a beautiful and successful change of pace, the possible exception being an ambitious country version of “The Girl With the Flaxen Hair.” The set concluded with up-tempo selections, including Herbie-like “Karuna,” followed by an homage to Corea’s “Spain.”
Summary: The band is not short on talent, and Dreith is a seasoned artist who knows how to get the best out of his musicians. The band excels in energetic and funky numbers, such as the Latin-inspired “Brujo,” which features strong bass lines and blues changes. Writing and conducting for a big band is an impressive feat, and more live performances will elevate the material to where it deserves to be.
Players: Dennis Dreith, composer, conductor; Gary Herbig, saxaphone; Bob Crosby, saxophone; Greg Huckins, saxophone; Ralph Humphrey, drums; Phil Teele, bass trombone/tuba; Charlie Morillas, trombone; John Goux, guitar; Dominick Genova, bass; Brian Kilgore, percussion; Kait Dunton, piano; Jeff Driskill, woodwinds; Michael Stever, trumpet; Mike Rocha, trumpet; special guests: Jay Rosen, violin; Neil Samples, violin; Jennie Hansen, viola; Armen Ksajikian, cello.
Venue: Catalina Bar & Grill
City: Hollywood, CA