By Ed Enright | Published December 2019
Brian Lynch’s first big band album connects the trumpeter’s lifelong passion for reading with his expansive vision as a composer/arranger. And while the dedications on The Omni-American Book Club: My Journey Through Literature In Music reveal Lynch’s deep interest in African-American literature and social justice, one need not be familiar with authors W.E.B. DuBois, Albert Murray, Ned Sublette, Naomi Klein, Masha Gessen, Isabel Wilkerson, Ralph Ellison, Chinua Achebe, Amiri Baraka and A.B. Spellman to fully enjoy this Afro-Caribbean-fueled, two-disc collection of strikingly fresh, intricately arranged original compositions.
An alumnus of groups led by Art Blakey, Horace Silver, Eddie Palmieri and Phil Woods—and a leader on more than 20 of his own albums—Lynch made his mark as a distinguished improviser and writer conversant in a wide variety of genres long before this new large-ensemble project was conceived. With its arrival this summer, The Omni-American Book Club has elevated Lynch’s vast oeuvre to ambitious new heights of accomplishment and acclaim, earning a Grammy nomination for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album. It features a stellar cast that includes Lynch’s teaching colleagues at University of Miami’s Frost School of Music, students and alumni of Frost, world-class players from the Miami area and six stellar guests who appear on one track each: drummer Dafnis Prieto, flutist Orlando “Maraca” Valle, soprano saxophonist Dave Liebman, violinist Regina Carter and alto saxophonists Donald Harrison and Jim Snidero. The music captivates as unrelenting grooves, sparkling ensemble interplay and ripping solos take the listener on an exhilarating thrill-ride inspired by fearless intellectuals whose written works have had a life-changing effect on this socially conscious bandleader.
The leadoff track, “Crucible For Crisis,” establishes the high musical standards The Omni-American Book Club adheres to, with Prieto, Valle and Lynch igniting the passion that smolders over the course of the entire program. Liebman takes a leading role on “The Trouble With Elysium,” blowing with the tune’s swing-to-Latin flow and trading increasingly bold statements with tenor saxophonist Gary Keller during the solo section before Lynch, pianist Alex Brown and drummer Kyle Swan contribute excellent improvisations of their own. “Tribute To Blue (Mitchell)” commits to a classic big band vibe, as Snidero and Lynch swing mightily during solos that mix laid-back bluesiness with spirited bursts of bebop.