Album Review, by Jack
Bowers, All About Jazz
Prairie Fire is a pleasurable and rewarding contemporary
Dean McNeill, who teaches at the University
of Saskatchewan in western Canada, brought together some of the
most accomplished jazz musicians in his neighborhood to produce
this emphatically bright and stylish album, which reminds one
more of the spectacular aurora borealis than it does a prairie
fire. And speaking of reminders, the charts—all by McNeill—summon
memories of such other Canadian behemoths as Rob McConnell's Boss
Brass (without the French horns) or Dave McMurdo's exemplary Jazz
Orchestra. The melodies are supple and engaging, the ensemble
technically adroit and rhythmically perceptive. McNeill wrote
every number save guitarist Mike Rud's "For Sonny,"
Ellington's "Just Squeeze Me" and the Cole Porter evergreens
"It's All Right With Me" and "All Of You."
"...this is among the most pleasurable
and rewarding contemporary big-band albums to come out of
Canada—or anywhere else—in quite some time."
— Jack Bowers, All About Jazz
The session opens with the opulent, chorale-like
"Reflections" for orchestra alone before introducing
an array of admirable soloists including Rud ("Sonny"),
tenor saxophonist Mark Dejong ("Vasquez," "Squeeze
Me," "Gratitude"), trumpeter Brian O'Kane ("Daze,"
"Everyday Living"), alto saxophonist Campbell Ryga ("Daze,"
"Fall-In," "All Of You"), tenors Greg Gatien
("It's All Right With Me") and Kelly Jefferson ("Daze"),
trumpeters Bill Mahar ("Gratitude") and John McLeod
("Your Absence Is Noted"), pianist Tom Van Setters ("Gratitude")
and bassist Mike Downes ("All Of You"). No one displeases,
nor does the ensemble's alert and agile rhythm section (Rud, Van
Setters, Downes, drummer Ted Warren). In sum, this is among the
most pleasurable and rewarding contemporary big-band albums to
come out of Canada—or anywhere else—in quite some
- Review by Jack Bowers, All About Jazz
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