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Back in the day, it was common for jazz stars to recruit young guns to fill out their bands, thus infusing their music with new blood, and giving green musicians experience they could carry with them into their careers. That’s less common now, oddly, but pianist/composer Steven Feifke and trumpeter Bijon Watson keep the tradition alive with Generation Gap Jazz Orchestra. Veterans like trumpeter Sean Jones and singer Kurt Elling join up-and-comers like trombonist Kalia Vandever and saxophonist Roxy Coss to perform a variety of compositions in the lush big band style, heavy on horny harmonies and memorable melodies. Feifke and Watson lead the orchestra through Horace Silver’s “Nica’s Dream,” Hugh Masekela’s “Dollar’s Moods” and Joe Henderson’s Inner Urge,” taking maximum advantage of the tight tunesmithery while still leaving room for sizzling solos. Feifke’s own songs, including ‘Blues in a Second,” “Scenes From My Dreams” and the cheekily titled “I’ve Got Algorithm” (it had to happen sooner or later) provide some of the set’s highlights. (The less said about the cover of Sting’s mawkish “Until” the better.) The duo doesn’t really push the envelope of what big band jazz should be, sticking instead to the tried-and-true formula. But smart song selection and lively performances from young and old(er) keep the GGJO on their toes, on point, and on target.
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