David Tranchina Large-ish Ensemble

The Ogre
(Big Ego)

“Snow In Altadena” begins as epics are supposed to, in media res, with a no-nonsense chart of stacked winds and a driving, looped rhythm. It sets the tone for a powerful album by bassist/composer David Tranchina, who can’t help writing with dramatic intent.

Tranchina’s models are, pretty transparently, Ellington and Mingus, the former in tailoring the charts to his soloists, and the latter in building the music very much from the bass. Tranchina himself is the iron core to every track, even “The Ogre,” which has an unexpectedly gentle sway, more big-friendly-giant than fierce nemesis. The arrangements are uniformly impeccable and seem to lead logically, even inevitably, into solo features. This is music of rugged romanticism, the “–ish” part of the band’s name a sign that there is a lot of power held in reserve on every track, nothing pushed to extremes, but modulated carefully in the service of the music. Tranchina’s earlier work offered hints that he would be a monster—or ogre—on a bigger stage, and this one confirms it in every measure.