Jacksonville Jazz Collective play the masters

Duke Ellington once said that “the wise musicians are those who play what they can master.” Members of the Jax Jazz Collective not only have the chops to play the music of the masters who’ve inspired them, they also honor their legacy by reimagining the compositions of their musical heroes in an original and creative way without compromising the integrity of the original piece. “Our goal is to perform unique arrangements of standards, paying respect to the tradition while also playing the music in a different and modern way,” says pianist Joshua Bowlus. “We wanted to create a group that we felt was representative of our diverse musical experiences and of jazz in Jacksonville in general.”

10517280_10152489328747631_4491320830732017835_oThe Jax Jazz Collective is comprised of Bowlus, Stan Piper, John Lumpkin, Mike Emmert, and alternately Alphonso Horne and Ray Callender. The group first banded together in 2012 over a shared appreciation of their jazz influences, which included Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, the SF Jazz Collective, and the Roy Hargrove Quintet, as well as more modern groove-based fusion groups such as Snarky Puppy and Kneebody.

“We thought it would be a good idea for our live performances to focus on the music of one composer at a time,” says Bowlus on the band’s website (www.jaxjazzcollective.com). “When we performed the music of Billy Strayhorn, it went over so well that we decided to do it again with well-known composer, Jerome Kern. After another successful run of performances, we decided to record the music and document our progress.”

The Jax Jazz Collective is not content to play traditional versions of vintage songs, instead infusing the original with new layers of rich melodies, inventive tempo changes, and swinging, passionate solos. Some of the highlights also include a cooking version of ‘I’m Old Fashioned’, the extended and catchy closing vamp of ‘Long Ago And Far Away,’ a surprisingly up-tempo ‘Make Believe,’ Alphonso Horne’s trumpet feature on a lyrical ‘Smoke Gets In Your Eyes,’ and the modernized and heated treatment given to ‘Yesterdays.’ Also included are a driving version of ‘Nobody Else But Me’ and an up-tempo ‘I’ve Told Ev’ry Little Star’ that is inspired by Art Blakey’s version of ‘Moon River.’ Capping off the album is a creative version of the title track ‘All The Things You Are,’ turning the veteran standard into something very new and soulful.

Duke Ellington often ended his concerts with a version of the always-haunting ‘Lotus Blossom,’ which inspired the Jax Jazz Collective do the same on their album. “We hope with the release of these recordings that we will be taking our music to other jazz festivals in the near future,” says Bowlus. “We plan to continue with future recordings exploring the music of other composers. Eventually we will be creating our own original material as well.”

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