“The latest release from the Verve Jazz Ensemble is one of this year’s best jazz albums to date. This kind of jazz pays striking tribute to the music of Duke Ellington’s “Take The A Train,” a silent moment to feel the simply joys of life. But wait my good friends, this is not for the initiate. This is sweet jazz for the aficionados. So, let’s talk about the wonderful, and at times brilliant performances of these musicians. Trumpeter Tatum Greenblatt is the hero here, followed with gratitude for Peter Bernstein (guest guitarist), along with the beautiful synergy of Jon Blanck (tenor sax), Matt Oestreicher (piano), Elias Bailey (bass), Josh Feldstein (drums), Chris Deangelis (bass), and Steve Einerson (piano). The five outstanding performances include “Jitterbug Waltz,” “You And The Night And The Music,” “My One And Only Love,” “Flor De Lis,” and “East End Avenue.” Everywhere on this album there are genuine pearls of the American jazz book with invocations and eulogies reminiscent of some of jazz great masters. East End Sojourn is an award-winning jazz album of contemporary beauty and poetic artistry.”
“In April of 2013, the Verve Jazz Ensemble released their first album It’s About Time (2012) to rave reviews from critics and jazz lovers everywhere. Exactly one year later, the group follows up on their amazing debut by unveiling East End Sojourn, an exciting second effort featuring new creative arrangements, more reimagined standards, a couple of original statements and the inclusion of guitarist luminary Peter Bernstein as special guest. The bop and post-bop grooves of the first recording are very much in play here with Jonathan Blanck’s sizzling tenor, Tatum Greenblatt’s soaring trumpet, and a tight rhythm section—all providing a swinging sound and a wish that this short sojourn, had encompassed more time.
“Old style swing jazz kicks off the music with a Blanck arrangement of Horace Silver’s “Sister Sadie” featuring Greenblatt and Blanck exchanging solo salvos and continues on the trumpeter’s arrangement of—and extended solo work on—the classic Fats Waller composition “Jitterbug Waltz,” ably accompanied by pianist Matt Oestreicher. Guitarist Bernstein appears on three consecutive tracks with the first being, “You And The Night And The Music,” followed by the Guy Wood standard “My One And Only Love,” the only balladic piece of the set.
“Venturing into Latin jazz for the very first time, the group delivers a spirited rendition of Brazilian singer Djavan’s “Flor de Lis” led by the guitarist and drummer Josh Feldstein’s light samba beats making this taste of Brazil quite engaging. Feldstein’s up beat swinging “East End Avenue” is the first of the two originals with the trumpeter’s muted horn- heavy “Dilly Dally Doodle,” serving as the finale but, not before showcasing some of Elias Bailey’s sharp bass line and pianist Steve Einerson’s fine solo work.
“The Count Basie staple “Corner Pocket” gets a fresh new treatment from Blanck’s arrangement of the Freddie Green classic featuring light cymbal accents from the drummer, more from Einerson and the horn section. What happens when you merge elements of the Horace Silver standard “Strollin’” with Neil Hefti’s “Cute”? The answer of course? A wonderful sampling of two classics on the appropriately titled “Strollin’” Meets Cute,” highlighting excellent bass phrasings from Chris DeAngelis in support of the two leaders—and arrangers of the hybrid piece—drummer Feldstein and pianist Oestreicher.
“Keeping faith with the traditional and contemporary side of jazz, East End Sojourn delivers a fair share of hard-driving swing and bop which, is something the dynamic Verve Jazz Ensemble has become accustomed to doing so well.”
“After hitting us with an auspicious debut last year and enjoying all the praise that came their way, the crew comes back not holding anything back and the music is hotter with the ensuing praise sure to be higher. Tearing it up like daddios without being hipsters, this is a swinging, bopping masterpiece that gets the blood boiling as opposed to just flowing. A real piece of mainstream paradise, this is smoking stuff that is a winner throughout. Check it out.”
- MIDWEST RECORD
Volume 38/Number 159, April 8, 2014
The Verve Jazz Ensemble’s album “It’s About Time” does double duty as merchandise and demo reel. It’s as if to say, this is what we sound like, tight and together in the studio…and this is us playing the second set at your club on a Friday night after a few drinks. To follow this cynical thread to its logical extreme, why play familiar standards, from Miles Davis to Henry Mancini, when you could be playing your own music? Maybe because these guys – Tatum Greenblatt on trumpet and flugelhorn, Jon Blanck on tenor sax, Matt Oestreicher on piano, Chris DeAngelis on bass and Josh Feldstein on drums – have so much fun doing it.
One of the reasons why this is a fun, purist album is Blanck’s arrangements. For example, they do the album’s second track, Softly As in a Morning Sunrise, a little faster than most groups do, as a dark bolero. That’s the “album version,” the first take. There’s also a second take, which trades the band’s intense focus for a far looser but rewardingly reckless approach lit up by a febrile Blanck solo: it more than hints at what this group may have up their collective sleeves.
Another cool arrangement is their take of Big Swing Face, the horns doing a boisterous approximation of the Buddy Rich big band version against Oestreicher’s glistening neon resonance. The album ends with a second take of that one, which is a lot faster and gives Greenblatt a welcome chance to cut loose and go as high as the band does here.
Miles’ Boplicity gets a careful, judicious treatment, but Greenblatt’s second solo is less wee hours than warmly anticipatory, bringing in a vivid early morning ambience. They do Henry Mancini’s The Days of Wine and Roses as a piano/bass/drums trio, swinging up to a succinct, ringing Oestreicher solo and eventually a clever series of false endings. Duke Jordan’s Jordu gives them a chance to work jaunty syncopation against a tireless bass walk. There are also two versions of Tadd Dameron’s Lady Bird: the first with a lustrous sheen from the horns and a matter-of-fact swing, the second a looser, more relaxed, nocturnal take with a sinuous DeAngelis solo.
August 29, 2013 Posted by delarue
Happy birthday, Jon. On Tuesday, Aug 27th, for Jon Blanck’s BD, WNHU FM’s Gary Grippo played several VJE tunes featuring Jon’s amazing tenor sax. Josh Feldstein was listening live, and called Gary on the air, which turned into a terrific off-the cuff live interview on the radio between Josh and Gary for more than 5 minutes…lots of fun. Thanks so much Gary, and thanks to all of the VJE’s fans at WNHU 88.7 FM in New Haven, CT. Keep up the great jazz, brother!
The Ensemble heads to the studio on August 20th to begin recording several exciting new tracks for our next album! Then, in November, we’ll have our next session in the studio, this time joined by our special guest artist, renowned guitarist Peter Bernstein. Peter will join forces with the Verve Jazz Ensemble on our upcoming CD, featured on three fabulous tunes, “Flor de Lis,” a beautiful Brazilian piece arranged by VJE trumpeter Tatum Greenblatt, a wonderful new arrangement by Matt Oestreicher of “My One and Only Love,” and a tremendous bebop burner arrangement of “You and The Night and The Music.”
The album will be completed in December, and will include several fabulous new arrangements as well as an original composition by VJE leader Josh Feldstein and tenor saxophonist Jon Blanck. Look for the VJE’s next album early in 2014!
The Verve Jazz Ensemble is a classic quintet made up of Tatum Greenblatt/tp-fh, Jon Blanck/ts, Matt Oestreicher/p, Chris DeAngelis/b and Josh Feldstein. Greenblatt’s got a clean and sweet Kenny Dorham-styled horn, while Blanck’s earthy tenor is right up there in the Benny Golson red meat variety. The band goes through crisp and pressed standards like “Lady Bird” and “Jordu” that will get you snapping your fingers within 4 bars. A hip take of “Big Swing Face” sparks with energy, while “Boplicity” and “Days of Wine and Roses” has the rhythm team showing some great gear changing.
The Verve Jazz Ensemble is not affiliated in any way with Verve Records and that may not be a good thing for the label. With their self-produced release It’s About Time the label may want to listen and think seriously adding them to their artist base. Continue reading
As of June 3rd, It’s About Time marks its second straight month in the top 20 slot on the national US JazzWeek charts (#14 this week), and 10 solid weeks on the national charts to date. Thank you to all our listeners from coast to coast! We’re now in rehearsals for our second album, scheduled for release right after the holidays. Much more on that very soon!