This band is truly well grounded – the tones that dominate its music seem to come from the deepest depths of the earth, which is the reason Joseph Daley called his big band “The Earth Tones Ensemble”.
He was interested in using the rich colours of the earth as an inspiration for the orchestral textures used in his compositions.
The line-up accordingly includes a large number of instruments in the area of the deepest basses, and the band leader quite deliberately has them play into the very lowest registers possible. “I wanted to make the timbres of the low-pitched instruments the core of my composition, and wanted the other instruments to be able to rest on those deep tones”.
Joseph Daley is himself a “low brass specialist”, plays the euphonium, trombone and tuba, a native of New York. He has worked, toured and recorded with many of the members of this ensemble. When he asked them to be part of the unusual Earth Tones Ensemble project, they all agreed: Howard Johnson and Scott Robinson, played bass giants rarely seen and heard, for example, the contrabass clarinet, the contrabass saxophone and the bass sarrusophone. (a bass instrument developed in the nineteenth century by Frenchman Pierre-Auguste Sarrus and akin to the saxophone). The appearance of these colossi alone is impressive, to say nothing of their sound, next to them the tuba, euphonium and bass trombone played by Bob Stewart, Joseph Daley and Earl McIntrye appear small.
But not just the deep bass instrumentalists accompanied Daley into the studio. The names of the other musicians – Marty Ehrlich, Lou Soloff, Stanton Davis, Gary Valente, Vincent Chancey, to name just a few reads like a Who’s Who of American jazz. It really is an illustrious twenty-five member big band Daley rounded up for his compositions.
He has a fabulous team at his disposal, and he says, “I wanted to have instrumental voices that are unique, but also characterized by strong spiritual sublimity.” Without exception, they are musicians Daley knows well, musicians whose special style and technique he is familiar with, and he was accordingly able to tailor his music to each of them, a circumstance to which every note testifies. Daley was interested in them as outstanding musicians but more importantly “that they’re first-class listeners”, who were able to perceive what’s going on around them and draw musical conclusions from it.
But who is Joseph Daley? Many jazz fans are likely to own one album or more CDs on which he is responsible for the bass foundation. Born in Harlem in 1949, Daley received his training at the Manhattan School of Music and has played in many of the trend-setting large formations since the early seventies: the Gil Evans Orchestra, the Carla Bley Band, Sam Rivers Rivbea Orchestra, Charlie Haden’s Liberation Orchestra, etc.
One of the first stops along his way was the brass section of the Taj Mahal Tuba band, where he along with Howard Johnson, Bob Stewart and Earl McIntyre was responsible for the weighty bass groove. Taj Mahal recruited the members of the tuba band from the innovative six tuba ensemble called Gravity which was under the leadership of the great Howard Johnson. This ensemble likewise devoted to the deep registers, and to which Joseph naturally belonged. The list of prime jazz addresses where Daley has been at home goes on and on.
Daley is currently a member of one of the most interesting bands coming out of New York – Hazmat Modine, an ensemble which defies all stylistic classification because it impetuously mingles blues, klezmer, Balkan beats, jazz and rock. The head of Hazmat Modine, singer, guitarist and harmonica player Wade Schuman, in turn played a central role in the creation of Joseph Daley’s composition The Seven Deadly Sins. Apart from being a musician, Schuman is first and foremost a visual artist, and has painted a cycle on “The Seven Deadly Sins” which Daley has translated into sound.
The title of Daley’s second composition Ballade of the Fallen African Warrior is reminiscent of the Liberation Music Orchestra’s 1983 album “The Ballad of the Fallen”, but there is no musical relationship between the two. Joseph Daley wrote his ballade in memory of his deceased brother Winston.
Joe Daley is a low-end brass specialist who plays tuba & euphonium and is a fine composer. As a leader, his albums are few although he has worked with other large ensembles of Carla Bley, Gil Evans, Sam Rivers & Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra. This is Mr. Daley first recording in many years and it is a most ambitious endeavor. The Earth Tones Ensemble features 23 members plus a handful of guests. The soloists include Marty Ehrlich, Howard Johnson & Scott Robinson on reeds, Lew Soloff, Stanton Davis & Eddie Allen on trumpets, Bob Stewart, Vincert Chancey, Craig Harris & Reut Regev on low-end brass plus a most impressive rhythm team of Onaje Allan Gumbs on piano, Benjamin Brown on basses and Warren Smith, Satoshi Takeishi and others on percussion.
When I finally got a chance to listen to this entire disc earlier this week, I was completely knocked out. All of the music was composed & conducted by Joe Daley and inspired by The Seven Deadly Sins paintings by Wade Schuman, as well as another long piece called “Ballade of the Fallen African Warrior”. “The Seven Deadly Sins” is a seven part suite. The music is warm with well-conceived autumnal colors. The harmonies for the reeds and brass are rich and often breathtaking. A number of solos stand out, like Howard Johnson’s luscious & haunting bari sax on “Avarita” or Mark Taylor’s French horn on “Superbia”. Since Mr. Daley is a low-end specialist his writing for those low-end horns like tuba, sarrusophone, contrabass clarinet & bass trombone is extraordinary. Another highlight is the five man percussion section which is often utilized for their orchestral colors and textures, not just rhythmic capabilities. Mr. Daley has a great way of combining the past with the present as far as the sound of this ensemble and the legacy they have drawn from. On “Lechery” those growling horns reach back to the early days of Ellingtonia which has got to bring a smile to our faces. Pianist Onaje Allan Gumbs is a name I’ve heard in many years (since the seventies) and he is in especially fine form here interacting impressively with Warren Smith’s inventive vibes. The final suite is called “Ballade for a Fallen African Warrior” and it is dedicated to to Joseph’s late brother Winston. This piece involves complex layers of brass, reeds and rhythm team work, as well as some especially elegant sections. Considering it is only the first week of the New Year (2011), we are already have an early (best of) winner for this splendid masterwork.
Written by: Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery
This trailer to the film by Robert O’Haire & Jeff Burns shows the making-of of “The Seven Deadly Sins” album by Joe Daley.
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