Crossing paths while participating in jazz recording sessions, trumpeter Bijon Watson and pianist Steven Feifke found themselves of one mind on something they lacked: the current lack of mentorship by veteran musicians or relatively new musicians.
New Generation Jazz Orchestra is the duo assembling nearly 20 musicians from a wide age range to alleviate this learning shortage. NGJO traverses a variety of styles and tempos throughout its nine-cut debut; but at its heart is a dedication to big band swing (it’s an orchestra, after all!) that updates tradition with well-crafted charts and arrangements with generous room for solos and interwoven instrumental conversation. .
Vocalist Kurt Elling, one of the most esteemed alumni present, showcases some set changes from its primary direction with an odd remake of a Sting soundtrack contribution from the early 2000s and a workout rubbery funk that imagines what it can have was like Mose Allison singing with the backing of Tower of Power. Although they are, Elling’s two contributions come in the first half of the album and unbalance the flow of the record a bit. Believing that Generation Gap is more than a passing fancy for its founders, perhaps another vocalist – here suggests a female – and a more even spread of vocals would benefit a second release. This is, however, a secondary caveat for such a well-manifested concept.