Named one of 2014’s top 50 albums by JazzWeek!
The Verve Jazz Ensemble burst onto the jazz scene with their debut release, It’s About Time, soaring up the jazz radio charts to the #5 slot and earning considerable critical kudos along the way.
East End Sojourn, the band’s follow-up to their debut album, delivered just what VJE fans in the US, Brazil, Japan and Europe were hoping for: another swinging collection of signature sounds that has earned the VJE a rapidly growing, loyal following worldwide. Hitting #8 on the US national jazz radio JazzWeek charts in May and June 2014, and placing at #41 on the JazzWeek top 100 jazz albums for 2014, East End Sojourn is being hailed as a “swinging, bopping masterpiece” by Midwest Record, and “one of the best jazz albums of the year” by Capital Community News.
This time out, the band has broadened its musical roster with special guest guitarist Peter Bernstein, who joins on three tunes, together with the VJE’s Jon Blanck (tenor sax), Tatum Greenblatt (trumpet), Steve Einerson and Matt Ostereicher (sharing piano duties), Elias Bailey (bass), and Josh Feldstein (drummer and VJE leader).
East End Sojourn kicks off with a dynamic arrangement of Horace Silver’s “Sister Sadie,” worked out by Jon Blanck, who contributed arrangements to four of the album’s nine tracks. Blanck’s driving tenor along with some soaring solos by trumpeter Tatum Greenblatt are backed by a sizzling rhythm section propelled by Josh on drums.
The VJE’s arrangement of Fats Waller’s “Jitterbug Waltz,” crafted by Tatum Greenblatt, presents a tight 3/4 arrangement that delivers a distinctively syncopated interpretation, performed as a quartet piece. Greenblatt’s muted trumpet leads the way, supported by Steve Einerson’s elegant piano which he hints at Waller’s classic style while exploring a melodious contemporary feel (Steve and Matt Oestreicher share paino duties on the album). Greenblatt’s arrangement of “You and the Night and the Music” is the first of the three songs featuring guitarist Peter Bernstein, who frames the tune by using his rich, undulating phrasing throughout his opening solo. Blanck and Greenblatt work together to build the tune’s up-tempo momentum, capped off by a series of bop-inspired solos by Feldstein on drums.
“I really like the Verve Jazz Ensemble’s performance of Flor de Lis! Their beautiful jazz interpretation of my song really captures the essence of the composition. Great samba groove, and a wonderful guitar solo by Peter Bernstein!
On his second contribution to the album, “My One and Only Love,” Bernstein brings incredible emotion to the track. Opening as a penetrating ballad, the arrangement shifts in and out of a dark yet grooving 6/8 feel. The piece creates space for a wide range of contrasting musical statements by Bernstein on guitar, Blanck on tenor, Greenblatt on trumpet, and Oestreicher on piano, before turning it back to Bernstein for a 6/8-ballad guitar solo.
On the next tune, the VJE goes Latin on Djavan’s “Flor de Lis,” written by Brazilian superstar Djavan. “‘Flor de Lis’ is an amazing song that I want to keep playing!” said Peter. Propelled by a delightful samba groove set down by Josh Feldstein along with some Stan Getz-esque tenor work by Blanck, the band relished the opportunity to dig their collective toes into the sand on this buoyant offering…which was really well received in Brazil by hundreds of thousands of Djavan’s fans!
The mood and pace change again with “East End Avenue,” an original composition by Josh, which was inspired by the drummer’s experiences living on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. A “feel good” swinger—with a side order of jazz mambo wrapped in a big band feel—”East End Avenue” gets rolling with high-intensity, back-to-back solos from its arranger Blanck on tenor and Greenblatt on trumpet, followed by a Latin-inspired piano solo from Ostereicher and supported by some crisp drumming by Josh throughout.
A VJE signature is playing what they term a “big band reduction”—taking a classic big band tune and re-arranging it into exciting small group rendition that echoes the feel of the original big band approach. “Corner Pocket,” the Freddie Green classic played famously by Count Basie’s orchestra, is uniquely presented here as a VJE quintet piece. Arranged by Blanck, the track takes the energy down a notch, while injecting a strong blues undertow to this Basie favorite. With vibrant solos by Greenblatt on trumpet, a captivating Elias Bailey bass feature, and a spirited Steve Einerson on piano, the Verve Jazz Ensemble tips its hat to the Count’s legacy with this rendition—and then some.
“Strollin’ Meets Cute,” an unusual VJE trio arrangement by Feldstein and Oestreicher, is based on a hybrid of two classics: Horace Silver’s “Strollin'” and Neil Hefti’s “Cute.” “I’d been listening to the Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock, and Jack Dejohnette version of ‘Strollin”, and I loved it,” Feldstein said. “At the same time, I crossed musical paths once again with the Sonny Payne / Basie version of ‘Cute,’ and just couldn’t get the two tunes separated in my head. Out came this arrangement, which Matt and I worked up.” “But don’t ask for the chart to this tune,” smiled Ostereicher. “We don’t have one.”
As the VJE was wrapping up its recording of East End Sojourn, Greenblatt shared an insight. “I had an instructor who once said, ‘Every jazz performance should have a blues.'” “Dilly Dally Doodle,” the trumpeter’s 16-bar blues original, fit the bill, and the band quickly locked in to support “Dilly Dally Doodle’s” tight bebop line in classic style.
With their second consecutive Top-10 US Radio album, East End Sojourn demonstrates considerable VJE evolution with their emotionally direct arrangements, all while continuing to honor the swing / bop / post-bop roots that first put them on the radar of jazz fans throughout the world. When All About Jazz said, “From bebop rhythms to sweet melodic ballads and swinging romps forged with exciting solo statements, the Verve Jazz Ensemble delivers quite an attention-grabbing first effort drawing inspiration for an encore performance,” East End Sojourn is exactly what they expected.