May 28, 2019
If you listened to my podcast interview with Randy Brecker last month, you heard him praise the work of arranger/composer Lisa Maxwell, and got an early listen to a track from her upcoming CD Shiny!. That release, an All-Star Big Band recording under the name of Lisa Maxwell’s Jazz Orchestra, available on May 17th.
Shiny! is dedicated to the memory of Lisa’s long-time friend and mentor, trumpet ace Lew Soloff, who made important recordings with Carla Bley, Gil Evans, and most profitably, as a member of Blood, Sweat & Tears. He died suddenly of an apparent heart attack in 2015.
The album in many ways is the perfect tribute to Soloff, a perennial first-call player in Big Bands throughout his career. Lisa not only wrote and arranged stirring – and toe tapping – pieces in his memory, but put together a who’s who of jazz greats who gigged with Lew in the Seventies and Eighties. These include Brecker (trumpet, who held that chair in Blood, Sweat & Tears before departing for the Horace Silver’s group) , “Blue” Lou Marini (sax), Tom “Bones” Malone (trombone), Paul Shaffer (keys), Mike Stern (guitar), Will Lee, David Finck and Mark Egan (bass), and Donny Gottlieb (drums). To that group are added the likes of Claire Daley (sax), Ben Perowsky (drums), Leni Stern (guitar) and singer Kenya Hathaway to make a memorable group.
Maxwell cut her arranging teeth as an orchestrator on some of your favorite cartoons of the Nineties, including “Pinky and the Brain.” She studied with renowned arranger Dick Grove in Studio City, California and with Herb Pomeroy on a Quincy Jones Arranging scholarship at Berklee. As a sax player, she was featured on tours by, among others, Guns ‘N Roses on their monster Use Your Illusion tour, one of the longest in rock history, playing 194 shows in 27 countries from 1991 to 1993.
Shiny! often has the sound of those great Seventies recordings, replete with wah-wah pedals on the trumpet, Fender Rhodes and some stinging guitar solos. Other times, in the moving arrangement of the standard “We’ll Be Together Again” or in the swinging “Israel”, the band could be any of the heavyweight Big Bands working today, with Maxwell providing tight arrangements that showcase the solos of Marini, Brecker, Roger Rosenberg and on French Horn, John Clark.
Podcast 680 is my conversation with Lisa Maxwell, as we talk about her career as a composer and arranger, her friendship with Lew Soloff, and how she handles being a “female arranger” or musician in the jazz world. Musical selections from Shiny! includes the title track; “Son of Creeper”, a tune written by her late friend Hiram Bullock; “Israel” and a remixed version of "Shiny!" by her friend Mocean Worker.