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The New Day Bends Light, the long-awaited debut from the Erica Seguine꘡Shon Baker Orchestra, is a good example of what makes the twenty-first century’s contemporary big band scene so exciting. Composers Seguine (who also conducts) and Baker (who also plays sax) don’t concern themselves with jazz tradition for the sake of it – you won’t find any Count Basie covers here. Instead, they follow the Duke Ellington model, utilizing their twenty-one piece ensemble for the colors they provide, and arranging each piece as to the needs of its melody and meaning. That allows Seguine and Baker to guide the musicians through “Tangoing with Delusion” by deftly segueing the title rhythm into a lush big band arrangement without sounding gimmicky at any point, or to begin the appropriately titled “Reel” with traditional Celtic melodics (courtesy violinist Meg Okura) before moving into full ensemble power as if two-hundred-year-old folk tunes always work that way. “Ose Shalom,” spotlighting singer “Tammy Scheffer*, and “…and the Tire Swing Keeps Spinning…” feel more like a classical orchestral pieces than jazz suites, using horns and drums to retain a jazz feel even as they avoid the kind of riffs and rhythms you’d expect. The title track ends the album with the pair’s most beguiling melody and richest arrangement. Produced by fellow big band maverick Darcy James Argue, The New Day Bends Light pushes this sound to yet another tier, and banishes Glenn Miller revivalists to the nether realms.
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