Modern mainstream jazz, that is well played, recorded, packaged and presented.
John Eyles 2007
Although most of the members of the Los Angeles Jazz Ensemble do not originate from California – bassist and leader Darek “Oles” Oleszkiewicz is from Poland – the group is well-named; it’s firmly in the tradition of West Coast jazz, having an easy-going, laid-back feel, a tradition that extends back over half a century. The musicians are seasoned session players from the LA scene, who have played on many jazz albums but also earn their living recording film and TV soundtracks. All display an effortless facility on their instruments and sound comfortable in each other’s company. Maybe, though, they are too comfortable; no-one sounds like they are breaking sweat.
Alan Pasqua on Hammond organ and Larry Koonse on guitar are the dominant sound on most tracks, giving a languid sound that can all too easily become background music. This is true despite the material including such distinctive pieces as “All Blues” and “Blue In Green” by Miles Davis.
Four of the tracks feature vocals from Janis Siegel - best known as a member of Manhattan Transfer - and these stand out from the rest, mainly because she injects much personality into her performances. The interaction between Siegel and saxophonist Bob Sheppard is delightful, notably on Rodgers & Hart’s “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was”. Her wordless vocal performance on the title track, a fine Oles original, is also exemplary.
An accompanying DVD was filmed in the studio during the recording. Brief interviews with the musicians help explain their rationale for recording the album; they mainly stress that the group is not looking to push back any frontiers but rather to do justice to the compositions in a straightforward, honest fashion. Tellingly, drummer Peter Erskine quotes Stan Kenton (in whose band he toured) who was asked where jazz was going. Kenton looked at the tour itinerary and replied, ‘Tomorrow it’s going to Cleveland’.
This is modern mainstream jazz, that is well played, recorded, packaged and presented, with an imaginative variety of compositions - but it just sounds like another day’s work for all concerned.