The Interplay Jazz Orchestra, On The Sunny Side

by Ferell Aubre

Co-directed by trumpeter Gary Henderson and trombonist Joey Devassy, Long Island, New York’s Interplay Jazz Orchestra performs original compositions and arrangements written by several members of the band, their third full-length album On The Sunny Side features eleven tracks from the ensemble collectively.  The writing on the album highlights Joey Devassy, Gary Henderson, Damien Pacheco, and Chris Scarnato as composers. The album was recorded at The Bunker Studios in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  The IJO is currently the only Long Island big band performing original arrangements and compositions.  Some of the band’s members can also be seen playing and subbing with some of the most famous big bands in the world including The Birdland Big Band, The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, and The Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra.

“Caravan” is given a slinky groove that lets the balanced and colorful ensemble shine on an excellent arrangement by Joey Devassy. The interaction between the brass and the woodwind sections is exceptional. The sections also create an intricate interaction of call and response and colorful counterpoint. The melody is passed between the brass and woodwinds to keep things interesting. Devassy’s trombone solo keeps the melody and harmony clearly in focus as he explores the range of the trombone with his warm round sound. The shout chorus is a beautiful example of outstanding big band writing. Andrew Gould’s saxophone solo is in the bop tradition with plenty of modern sensibilities. His lines have rhythmic drive and clarity. The ensemble performs a series of call and response passages with Mark Portugal soloing on the drum set. Just when you though the writing and ensemble playing could not get any better, Devassy takes us on trip of the hippest lines and voicings, all impeccably performed by the Interplay Jazz Orchestra.

“Lights Down Low” by trumpeter Gary Henderson puts the abilities of the Interplay Jazz Orchestra in a clear light. The easy flowing tempo and bluesy melody allows the ensemble to shine with brilliance and technical authority. Alejandro Aviles performs a beautiful saxophone solo. His lines flow through the backgrounds and match the them perfectly. The shout chorus displays the bands accurate and crisp articulation and ability to swing hard in a medium slow tempo, without ever rushing or sounding frantic. Selections like “Lights Down Low” are deceptively challenging, they sound simple, but it takes and precision big band to perform a selection like this with energy, focus and maintaining a relaxed feel. All of which the Interplay Jazz Orchestra does with class and style.

With three albums under their belt, My Love You’re Free (2013), and Detour (2016), the group comes out of the box swinging with On The Sunny Side.  The strength of their originals shines through with well-placed covers adorning the eleven tracks.  Interplay Jazz Orchestra is a well-oiled ensemble, their counterpoint is filled with luminosity and brilliance. The album is well-balanced, and each player adds to the nuances of the music for a resplendent listen.

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