By Bill Meyer | Published November 2021
If there was only one reason to pray for the late Lester Bowie, it would be to give thanks. Not only did the trumpeter’s often-sardonic playing impart multiple dimensions of delight; the stylistic breadth of his work showed anyone listening how to combine art and entertainment with commitment and non-hierarchical inclusivity.
David Sanford’s latest album, named after a piece written by Art Ensemble associate member Hugh Ragin, doesn’t sound much like Bowie’s, but it is similarly welcoming. This is both a strength and occasional deficit.
Sanford, a long-time educator, composer and conductor, is equally adept at leading his big band through a streamlined, swinging performance of Dizzy Gillespie’s “Dizzy Atmosphere” as guiding the ensemble between dark atmospherics and polytonal blues on “Subtraf.”
The live-in-the-studio recording captures his music’s dynamic range, which encompasses subtle tenderness and enthusiastic overload. The ensemble’s exquisite rendition of shifting colors throughout “Woman in Shadows” is as satisfying as the quick-stepping duet between conguero Theo Moore and trombonist Jim Messbauer on “Full Immersion.”
Detours into a riffing rock feel a tad cartoonish. But if Bowie were on hand to comment, he’d probably suggest to just wait for the next tune to come along.
A Prayer For Lester Bowie: Full Immersion; Subtraf; Woman In Shadows; Popit; A Prayer For Lester Bowie; Dizzy Atmosphere; Soldier And The CEO; V-Reel. (69:18)
Personnel: David Sanford, conductor (1–4, 6–8); Hugh Ragin, trumpet, conduction (5); Ted Levine, alto saxophone; Kelley Hart-Jenkins, alto saxophones; Anna Webber, tenor saxophone (1, 2, 7, 8); Marc Phaneuf, tenor saxophone (3–6), Geoff Vidal, tenor saxophone; Brad Hubbard, baritone saxophone; Brad Goode, trumpet (1–7); Tony Kadleck, trumpet (8); Tim Leopold, Wayne J. du Maine, Thomas Bergeron, trumpets; Mike Christianson, Jim Messbauer, trombones; Ben Herrington, trombone (1, 2, 4, 6–8); Mike Seltzer, tenor trombone (3, 5); Steven Gehring, bass trombone; Raymond Stewart, tuba; Dave Fabris, electric guitar; Geoff Burleson, piano; Dave Phillips, electric and acoustic bass; Mark Raynes, drums; Theo Moore, percussion.
Ordering Info: davidsanfordbigband.bandcamp.com