It’s as though they were commandments delivered from heaven on a stone tablet: “Thou shalt create jazz orchestras of 17 players”, and “These shalt always sound like what has gone before”. Big-band leaders around the world nodded meekly and set about rehashing the sound of other big bands. Creativity be damned. This presumably comes as a shock to some of them, but there are no rules, and if even if there were they were made for breaking.
Jon Armstrong understands this. The gifted Los Angeles tenor saxophonist may have assembled a 23-piece band of fairly traditional instrumentation, but he is a composer and arranger who dares to imagine, the slightly more pedestrian title track apart. Seldom resorting to the full blast of massed horns, he prefers to draw out shifting patterns of colours, textures and dynamics, using structures that sometimes dare to reach beyond the hackneyed head-solos-head format. Improvising (including by the scything trumpeter Daniel Rosenboom) becomes a conceptual part of the pieces. Just don’t let this news be heard by the Tablet-Maker.