CD review

Remy Le Boeuf’s Assembly Of Shadows – Assembly of Shadows

Remy Le Boeuf’s Assembly Of Shadows – Assembly of Shadows
(SoundSpore Records. Review by Adam Sieff)

I generally shy away from jazz orchestras. I know, my loss. But this album has completely blown me away. I hadn’t previously come across Remy Le Boeuf, and discover he’s a 32-year-old, California-raised, New York-based saxophonist and composer who’s been around for a while, playing with Linda Oh, JACK Quartet and with his pianist twin brother Pascal as the Le Boeuf Brothers. He cites his composer influences ranging from Maria Schneider and Charles Mingus to Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland and Benjamin Britten. This is his second release on his own SoundSpore Records (he’s into mycology) and its centrepiece is the five-movement suite Assembly of Shadows. But first, there are two standalone works that fully deserve their place here.

The opening track, Strata, was commissioned by Japan’s Keiko Light Music Society in 2015 and was Le Boeuf’s first major opportunity to write for a jazz orchestra. It’s a great entrance and features some wonderful playing, especially the solos from trombonist Eric Miller and flautist Anna Webber. Next comes an arrangement of Ornette Coleman’s Honeymooners, originally for a Jazz at Lincoln Center Coleman tribute, with a sensational soprano saxophone solo by Le Boeuf. This is exciting music, energetic and full of ideas.

And finally, the main event, Assembly of Shadows, with the principal soloists illustrating a story of a child lost in a forest, dancing with trees and waking at home to wonder if it had only been a dream. The boundaries between contemporary classical music, folk themes and modern jazz are laid wide open, and I found the whole experience immensely enjoyable. The suite begins gently with the short Introduction, a pretty theme with a menacing undertone. Next, the eight-minute title track Assembly of Shadows is dramatic and ambitious, featuring a fine guitar solo from Alex Goodman. Trumpeter Philip Dizack is yet another wonderful player I hadn’t heard before and his solos on both this piece and the following Shapeless Dancer are terrific. In fact, Shapeless Dancer is my favourite moment on the album with the rhythm section of bassist Matt Aronoff and drummer Peter Kronreif let off the leash. With all these fine musicians I haven’t mentioned Le Boeuf enough, and I should – he’s a superb player and his alto saxophone ‘duel’ with the baritone of Carl Maraghi on Transfiguration is another of the album’s highlights. The gentle A Light Through the Leaves ends the suite on a contemplative and positive note with a wonderful piano introduction from Martha Kato and yet another fine trumpet solo from Dizack.

Props to recording and mix engineer Brian Montgomery for the wonderful sound, and to Oktaven Audio in Mt Vernon, New York, where recording took place over two days in March.

For an artist to assemble something on this scale and release it on their own label is a remarkable thing and without the help and support of the Copland Fund Recording Programme and a crowdfunder it would probably never have been possible. It’s been a long time since I’ve been so impressed with new music from an artist I didn’t know, so if you like what you hear and can’t find the CD from your usual sources, why not buy it or the file format of your choice from Le Boeuf’s Bandcamp page where you’ll also be supporting the artist directly.

LINK: Remy Le Boeuf on Bandcamp

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