From the outset, Archie Shepp's terminally misunderstood Attica Blues on Impulse during the 1970s was an attempt by the saxophonist and composer to bring together the various kinds of African American musics under one heading and have them all express the conscience of the day. His ensemble featured singers, string players, horns, drums, guitars, etc. The sounds were a Gordian knot of jazz, free music, R&B, soul, groove, and even funk. In 1979 Shepp was given the opportunity to realize the project with an ensemble of his choosing at the Palais des Glaces in Paris (New York was already courting Wimpton Marsalis). Shepp chose 30 musicians and director/conductor Ray Copeland. Among the throng were saxophonists Marion Brown, John Purcell, Patience Higgins, and John Ware.
Raymond Fol's jazz arrangement of Antonio Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons" may have fallen into obscurity, but the French pianist's big band scoring of this classical favorite shows plenty of imagination. With a band of his fellow countrymen, along with expatriate Americans Johnny Griffin (tenor sax), bassist Jimmy Woode, and drummer Art Taylor, he casts a variety of moods, even within individual sections. In the first movement of "Le Printemps (The Spring)" he chooses an Afro-Cuban mood, while the second shifts to a smaller chamber jazz setting, showcasing guitarist Pierre Cullaz, vibraphonist Sadi, and the leader in turn.
Christian McBride's second big-band album, 2017's Bringin' It, is a robust, swaggeringly performed set of originals and standards showcasing his deft arranging skills and his ensemble's exuberant virtuosity. The album comes six years after his previous big-band outing, The Good Feeling, and once again finds the bassist conscripting a slew of his talented cohorts (some new, others returning), including saxophonists Steve Wilson and Ron Blake, trumpeters Freddie Hendrix and Brandon Lee, trombonist Steve Davis, pianist Xavier Davis, drummer Quincy Phillips, and others. Together, they make a swinging, dynamic sound that brings to mind the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra of the 1960s and bassist Charles Mingus' various big-band recordings. It should be noted that both of those ensembles continue to live on as the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra and Mingus Big Band, and McBride's group matches their high artistic legacies.