The Dave Lalama Big Band,
The Hofstra Project
(independent, 2013)

In Dave Lalama, we have a man who is at home in both the academic world and the jazz world. A founding member of the Manhattan School of Jazz program and a member of the Hofstra University faculty, he has also spent his time in the pro music world as a member of bands led by Woody Herman, Buddy Rich and Mel Lewis, as well as being the leader of his own outfits.

Lalama decided to blend his two worlds by forming a 17-piece big band to be composed of Hofstra faculty, alumni and guest artists in order to help others experience the world of the business and art of music as he had. The Hofstra Project is the first record from this band.

Big band jazz carries so many associations with it, so many negative connotations, that it's hard for a lot of people to listen to it through clean ears. We're too used to thinking of it as old-fashioned, cornball swing that died a deserved death when bop was born. We have Sturgeon's Law to thank for this. When noted science-fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon was being interviewed one time, the arrogant, above it all, better-than-you interviewer said, "Tell me, Mr. Sturgeon, why is it that 95 percent of science fiction is pure crap?" Sturgeon replied, "That's because 95 percent of everything is pure crap."

That's Sturgeon's Law: 95 percent of everything is pure crap. So, of course, 95 percent of the big band music that makes up poor associations with the form was pure crap. But, man, that other 5 percent!

The Lalama Big Band tries to draw from the other 5 percent, giving us tunes by Charlie Mingus, Joe Henderson, James Moody, Oscar Pettiford and Jimmy Rowles -- all names you'd draw out of your holster if you got into a jazz shootout. Their originals fall into the same vein: "St. Thelonious" uses Monk's themes as a base and builds on them, while the album opener, "Full House," is a tribute to the Village Vanguard band led by Thad Jones and Mel Lewis.

These guys know their stuff and they are determined to keep it new and fresh, not dissolve from carelessness into the 95 percent of big band music we all know and despise. If you're a fan of big bands, you'll love this CD. If you aren't, you might find your resistance fading.

music review by
Michael Scott Cain

7 September 2013

Agree? Disagree?
Send us your opinions!

what's new