Thursday, September 01, 2011

Matt Nowlin Jazz Orchestra - The Good News

Swing music is a vibrant feeling rather than music of a bygone era in the hands of Matt Nowlin.
Hans Koert

If you play the recently released 12-inch album by The Matt Nowlin Jazz Orchestra, I bet you'll believe it was recorded sixty years ago. Nothing is further from the truth. Matt Nowlin's debut album was recorded in May 2010 and released last year.
The Mat Nowlin Jazz Orchestra - The Good News ( MIN-0001LP) (cover design: David J. Woodruff)
The Matt Nowlin Jazz Orchestra features a reeds section with Alex McNeilly, Josh Johnson, Adam Turman and Dustin Laurenzi; the brass section features Ben Samson , Jesse Van Dam and Kristin Cazenave on trumpet, Jake Handelman, Dan Kolan and Any Toews on trombone; the rhythm section features Joel Tucker on rhythm guitar, David Linard on piano, Coleman Cook on double bass and Anson Hohne on drums. The band is directed by Matt Nowlin.
Dustin Laurenzi (alto saxophone) and Josh Johnson (tenor saxophone) soloing together (photo courtesy: Kortnee Warner)
Matthew Ian Lowin received a degree in Jazz Studies at the Indiana University some times ago and played trumpet in several jazz bands all around Chicago, where he lives. The kind of groups in which Matt can be heard are as varied as jazz music itself: from a street parade band as the Jefferson Street Marching Band up to his free jazz quartet ........ and, of course, his Matt Nowlin Jazz Orchestra. This big band wants to play in the style of the late 1930s - the period of the large big bands, like Jimmy Lunceford's. Matt didn't want to copy the music from that period not for note, like
the Beau Hunks as the Jimmy Lunceford's Legacy Orchestra; not at all; In the hands of composer Matt Nowlin, the liner notes read, swing is a vibrant feeling rather than music from a bygone era. And that's what this big band album is - a swinging album, which shows, once more, that big band swing isn't music that only can be heard on old noisy 78rpms, but still can fascinate and entertain.
Label of latest LP of the Matt Nowlin Jazz Orchestra - The Good News ( MIN-001 LP)
Matt wrote most of the compositions on the album himself - Just Friends was originally written by Sam M. Lewis and John Klenner in the early 1930s as a swing tune, but became known in the version of Charlie Parker; Sleep was composed by Earl Burtnett for Art Hickman's band and was recorded in the 1930s by Tommy Dorsey. Matt Nowlin tried to revive the sound of those big bands. Recording engineer Neal Warner used only four microphones to reconstruct the same sound as on those 1950s - 1960s early stereo-recordings as can be heard on Mingus' Ah Um and Basie's Straight Ahead.
Matt Nowlin in front of the band ( photo courtesy: Kortnee Warner)
I liked the title song The Good News which is about a couple of things, Matt told me. First, the record has an upbeat tone. I wanted to make people feel good. Smart music that in the end just makes you feel funky, groovy. So this is Good News. Also, for me that joy and exuberance I'm trying to convey comes from the Lord, from the Gospel. My joy is found in the Good News of Christ, that we are all broken but He has redeemed us all. So that's where the joyful sound of the record is coming from. Lastly, it is an homage to the fact that it is very good news that all these artists and engineers could come together to work on this project together. It was a blessing, it was fortunate, and it was Good News. Another great composition is R and B, which stands for Rhythm and Blues; not as the former music style, but as two seperate words. It really just means the tune is built on rhythm, and also the blues. It is a blues (an 8-bar blues) and it features interesting rhythms layered in a Sy Oliver manner. Like Proto-R&B, Matt Nowlin explains. My most favourite one is Sleep, dedicated to Jim, his father-in-law, who introduced him to this tune it the Ben Webster and Don Byas version on Commodore (1944). Just Friends has a pleasant tempo, which reminds me to the better big band arrangements from the 1930s with Joel Tucker as a reborn Freddie Green on guitar.

Sound engineers Neal Warner and his assistant Alex Kroh at the Farm Fresh Studios in Bloomington (IN) (photo courtesy: Kortnee Warner)
If you like big band music and you do still have a turntable

try to find a copy of this debut album on vinyl played by this young promising big band.
These recordings are warm and joyful. They do not attempt to recreate an idea of what jazz used to sound like or should still sound like. Matt Nowlin did a good job composing and arranging this music; that band just swings.

This LP-album can be ordered on
Matt Nowlin's site and includes free MP3 downloads. You can also obtain a download version without a hard-copy if you like.
Hans Koert

I was surprised to learn that the Matt Nowlin Orchestra had released its first LP-album entitled The Good News. Nowadays LP-issues seem to be just for a select audience, but the band didn't stagnate; it keeps up with the times as the music can also obtained as a download. Although the way this music was recorded was based on early stereo recordings of the 1950s and '60s, the band doesn't copy the big band music of that period - they do not recreate the idea of what jazz used to sound like or should still sound like. Matt Nowlin did a good job composing and arranging this music; that band just swings.
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