Arsenal Center for the Arts continues its third season with The New World Jazz Composers Octet. The NWJCO was organized over 11 years ago by Berklee faculty member Daniel Ian Smith as an aggregation dedicated to the performance of new music. To have a group of great ensemble players who are also stellar soloists is a rarity—it's a dream come true for contemporary composers.
The NWJCO gave its first performances under the guise of the Sanctuary Composers Forum in tandem with the Jazz in the Sanctuary concert series. The group garnered considerable attention after its first performance, and word spread that this world-class ensemble was truly one-of-a-kind.
The ensemble quickly adapts to and personalizes the compositions that are written expressly for it. Faculty composers who have contributed to the ensembles' repertoire have included Ted Pease, Dick Lowell, Matt Nicholl, Ken Pullig, Bob Pilkington, Rich Grudzinski and others. The impressive list of players, all with international performing credentials, includes Daniel and Dino Govoni on woodwinds, Ken Cervenka and Walter Platt on trumpets, Tim Ray on piano, Keala Kaumeheiwa on bass, and Steve Langone and Ernesto Diaz on drums and percussion. Transitions, the group's 2010 release, is currently garnering attention from JazzTimes and All About Jazz.
"As its name professes, the Boston-area–based New World Jazz Composers Octet is not, strictly speaking, a big band. On the other hand, it has a big sound, thanks in part to well-shaped charts," wrote Jack Bowers of All About Jazz. "While the viewpoint is contemporary, the essential building blocks of pleasurable music, namely melody, harmony, and rhythm, are never slighted."