Thursday, April 16, 2009

Florencio Gonzalez Big Band @ Ryles

After all the hulabaloo online this past month about a recent big band canon (more on that later), I was excited to see a young big band live for the first time in awhile.  I stumbled on Ms. Gonzales in researching my "gigs to see" post for March, and was really struck by the music I heard.  I caught a (short) second set at Ryles last night.  While I didn't hear anything that would vault her onto Mr. Kirchner's must hear list, Ms. Gonzalez is a fine young writer well worth following.  

The set opened with an arrangement of Sonny Rollins' "Blue 7" that sounded like it had evolved out of a school writing project- very smart dissonant opening, harmonized melody, solos with various backgrounds, sax soli, and out.  (across the chart Florencia showed a cheeky way with endings.)  She followed with "a 12 tone tune" (she actually never gave any chart titles from the stage, which was mildly annoying, especially for a reviewer).  It was an interesting piece, shifting temops and feels while keeping the pitch material present, mixing in short solos throughout.  There were some nice spots, particularly towards the end when a groove started after a slow unison band line, but the piece as a whole didn't quite hang together.  The soloists here did a nice job of using the more atonal language of the piece to build their solos around. (Maybe they read Ethan's request on this.)  Trombonist Ryan Drayson (forgive me, I'm going by my notes) stood out.

The last two pieces were the best of the set, introduced as a tango and a chacarerra (sp?).  The tango leads off her website, but was a little quicker this evening.  Both tunes were orchestrally bright and rhythmically engaging, with sharp writing throughout.  Overall the solos here were workmanlike- for my taste too often the solos didn't necessarily take the music anywhere, but the soloists themselves were engaged and solid, if not wildly interesting.  The huge band, augmented with a lot of extra woodwind players, was generally tight, quite an accomplishment with some very daring charts and I'm sure not much rehearsal time.  I'm excited to see as Ms. Gonzalez continues to evolve what she writes, because there is much here to enjoy.

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