By Edward Kliszus
The Michael Davis Hip-Bone Big Band shook the rafters tonight at New York City’s Birdland Jazz Club with one great number after another. Tonight was a celebration of their new album, Open City. Performed for a packed house, they broke it down with contemporary jazz. It was modern, sophisticated, and cool with smatterings of bebop. Complex rhythmic and melodic structures evolved and fit perfectly with the artistry of drummer Jared Schonig and the players around him.
Intimacy of a Jazz Quartet
The musicians who performed in the Hip-Bone Big Band possess incredible artistry. In addition to musical power, they ably projected the intimacy of a jazz quartet with soloists, trading riffs, and refined improvisations. Andy Ezrin mesmerized with his solo piano work, as did his rhythm section partner Cole Davis on bass.
We heard the rich assortment of sound colors from the reeds, brass, and percussion. Brass players used mutes and flutter tongue colorations while reeds mixed it up with clarinets, flute, and the family of saxophones.
Here’s ‘Cat Walk’ from the Open City album.
In a way, tonight’s musical metamorphosis paralleled Mahler’s orchestral transcription of Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 11 in F minor (Op. 95). The projection of “chamber jazz” by a big band was powerful, moving, explosive, and controlled to breathless heights of musical energy.
Spirit of Cool Jazz
Listening to the Hip-Bone Big Band, I think about Lester Young on tenor sax and star of the Count Basie Orchestra. The President, as Young was called, pushed the evolution from hot jazz that sparked the spirit of cool jazz. You know Young’s disciples, cats like Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, J. J. Johnson, and Stan Getz. Michael Davis, his trombones and axes were on fire tonight. I imagine J. J. Johnson nodding proudly.
Michael Davis and his son Cole Davis, bassist extraordinaire, wrote tonight’s tunes and arrangements. With Zaq Davis on trumpet, it was a truly family affair. Many songs were dedicated to family members like Michael Davis’s wife, Amy (‘Lady Bug’), and his son Cole.
The saxophone section provided a rich, full-bodied sound that was commanding and soulful as needed. Notably, great solo work by Andy Snitzer on solo tenor, David Mann on soprano and lead alto sax, Steve Wilson on alto sax, Charles Pillow on tenor sax, and Frank Basile on the baritone sax. The section glowed as the ensemble’s heart, and with harmony and melody, drove the energy of the music forward.
Trombones did their part with their unique, lush timbres, adding depth and texture. Michael Davis, Ryan Keberle, and their partners provided great solo and section work. It was virtuosic, forceful, and harmonious. ‘Underdog’ featured Michael Davis on trombone and demonstrated the excellent trombone sound of the band.
‘Bone Man Walking‘ is written for brass and winds only. It celebrated fabulous brass and winds with rich, thick harmonies, contrapuntal passages, angular melodies, and virtuosity.
Crisp, Clear Top Range
The trumpets led the brass section and ensured melody, accents, and interjections. The trumpets’ bright, crisp, and brassy sounds easily cut above and through the ensemble. They utilized various dynamic and articulation effects, from soft and mellow to loud and staccato. Drummer Jared Schonig subtly emphasized trumpet section kicks while in sync with the entire ensemble. Trumpets played in unison or harmony, alternating during different parts of the arrangements. Along with improvised solos, the trumpets provided a foundation for the rhythm section, adding excitement and energy to the band’s overall sound. Tony Kadleck did his part as lead trumpet in ensuring the band’s crisp, clear top range.
Vibrant Ensemble Sounds
The arrangements featured tight harmonies, section fireworks, fabulous solos, and energy. The intricate rhythms added depth and complexity to the overall sound. Furthermore, this event showcased the creative and technical skills of the musicians in the ensemble. It was about great solos and sounds all around. Each section was tight, with vibrant ensemble sounds by the reeds and trombones. Michael Davis and his son Cole are gifted, creative writers and performing artists.
Check out the rhythmically complex, compelling ‘Open City‘ from the eponymous album.
State of the Art
The closing number, ‘State of the Art,’ tied it all together.
Saxophones: David Mann, Steve Wilson, Andy Snitzer, Charles Pillow, Frank Basile
Trumpets: Tony Kadleck, Scott Wendholt, Zaq Davis, Greg Kinsberger
French Horn: Judy Yin-Chi Lee
Trombones: Michael Davis, Reginald Chapman, Alan Ferber, Ryan Keberle
Rhythm: Andy Ezrin (piano), Cole Davis (bass), Jared Schonig (drums)
Birdland Jazz Club
315 W 44th Street
New York, NY 10036
Song list from the Album Open City by Michael Davis and the Hip-Bone Big Band.