Recommended: Ken Schaphorst Big Band – “How To Say Goodbye”


There’s a deft subtlety to how Ken Schaphorst develops the character of How To Say Goodbye.  At first blush, the album comes off as just a solid straight-ahead big band recording.  Schaphorst’s ensemble of modern jazz all-stars captivates with the harmonic warmth and huge presence that one would expect from this kind of session.  Right from the word ‘go,’ the music swings along, takes some mild detours for a change of pace, but doesn’t stray too far from the middle of the road.  But as the album proceeds along, the balance between the ensemble’s collective presence and the ability of soloists to express their individuality begins to emerge.  There’s the way trumpeter John Carlson mirrors the ensemble’s dancing motion whether they’re joined at the hip or staring at one another from across the dance floor.  There’s the almost delicate harmonies of “Blues For Herb” and the way saxophonist Donny McCaslin’s solo is able to light a fire under things without dispersing the ensemble’s softer touch.  And there’s how the flow of “Descent” is propelled forward and subsides with an upbeat solo by pianist Uri Caine and a more contemplative tone from trumpeter Ralph Alessi… adaptable under any and all conditions.

And it’s when Schaphorst grows the personality of this recording exponentially with pieces like “Mbira 1” and “Mbira 2” that this session vaults into something truly special.  The textures of the African percussion and the dynamic rhythmic approach, and how they both melt into the gentlest sighs of melody from the ensemble, it all comes together in expressions of profound loveliness.  Yes, the compositions are immaculate and the musicianship is superb, but it’s the substantive depth created by the synthesis of those two qualities that marks this album as a true gem.

The foundation of the album’s context is grounded in relationships, both personal and musical.  The emotional impact of the compositions and the sympatico interplay between Schaphorst and his fellow NEC alums is the living proof that Schaphorst’s intent translated to the recorded medium.

Really, just a magnificent recording, and it continues to grow on me with each subsequent listen.  Its effect upon me was subtle.  I’m not sure exactly when I became addicted to How To Say Goodbye, but the result is undeniable… and quite welcome.

Your album personnel:  Ken Schaphorst (trumpet, Fender Rhodes), Brad Shepik (guitar), Michael Thomas (clarinet, soprano & alto saxophones), Brian Landrus (bass clarinet, baritone sax), Jeremy Udden (alto sax), Chris Cheek, Donny McCaslin (tenor saxophones), Dave Ballou, John Carlson, Ralph Alessi, Tony Kadleck (trumpets, flugelhorns), Curtis Hasselbring, Luis Bonilla, Jason Jackson (trombones), Jennifer Wharton (bass trombone), Uri Caine (piano), Matt Wilson (drums), Jay Anderson (bass) and Jerry Leake (percussion).

This Self-Produced album is released under JCA Recordings.

Listen to more of the album on Soundcloud.

Music from Boston.

Available at:  Amazon | CDBaby