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Album Review, by Jack Bowers, All About Jazz

Prairie Fire is a pleasurable and rewarding contemporary big-band album

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 time.

- Review by Jack Bowers, All About Jazz

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