My Octet’s debut recording, Pathways, comes out at the end of March [3/23] but I actually formed the group in 2001 for a tour of Britain that was sponsored by the British Arts Council. I had always loved the sound of the Duke Ellington small groups, often with a 5 horn front-line plus the rhythm section. The combination of 2 brass and 3 saxes gives access to a wide range of textures and colors and allows a composer to evoke the sound of a big band or create the more intimate sound of a small group.
I also wanted a project that would include at it’s core my regular working quintet (Robin Eubanks, Steve Nelson, Chris Potter, and Nate Smith) and build the music around what we had already developed as a small group. The additional horns gave me some different compositional options but equally important, the personal sound, style and creative approaches of Antonio Hart (alto), Gary Smulyan (baritone) and Alex Sipiagin (trumpet) add a great deal to the creative mix.
For those that have followed my recording career, know that I often revisit compositions I have recorded at different stages in my career. Over the years, one of the things that has changed is my approach to playing them. Writing the song is just a starting point and after that the improvisor develops different ways of interpreting it. There are some compositions that seem to remain relevant and that continue to evolve. On Pathways, I chose two older pieces, “Shadow Dance” and “How’s Never?” The former was on Jumpin In’, my debut recording with my first working band over 25 years ago. The latter I first played with the Gateway trio with Jack DeJohnette and John Abercrombie.
The album was recorded at Birdland, where I recorded with my quintet for the album Extended Play. Niklaus Troxler contributed the cover artwork as he has on my previous three releases on Dare2 Records. You’ll be able to pre-order the album from my website here shortly. It will be available in a standard CD edition, PLUS an edition limited to 1000 copies, and as a download (MP3, Apple Lossless, or FLAC). If you pre-order a physical copy, you’ll get an immediate download of the album. Stay tuned for more information coming shortly.