Album Review, by Nick
Lavigne, Canadian Association for Jazz Education
Prairie Fire brings together some of Canada's
Composer, arranger, and trumpeter Dean McNeill
has accomplished not one, but two colossal tasks with his release
of Prairie Fire. Firstly, he has created some incredible works
of art with his original compositions and in his arrangements
of other musicians' pieces. Secondly, he has brought some of Canada's
best musicians (including bassist Mike Downes, drummer Ted Warren,
trumpeters John McLeod and Bill Mahar, trombonist Hugh Fraser,
and saxophonists Kelly Jefferson and Campbell Ryga), whom are
scattered all across the country, to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan to
form a large jazz ensemble to record and perform what is now Prairie
"McNeill is well aware of the wide
palette of colors an ensemble this size gives him and he knows
how to use them without over doing it."
— Nick Lavigne, Canadian Association
for Jazz Education
McNeill has a long list of performing, arranging,
and teaching credits (now head of the Department of Music at the
University of Saskatchewan) to his name and the experience, education,
and knowledge that comes with them make themselves known on Prairie
Fire. McNeill is well aware of the wide palette of colors an ensemble
this size gives him and he knows how to use them without over
doing it. The pensive "Reflections" is a chorale that
is beautiful in its simplicity yet impressive with its lyricism.
The entire ensemble starts to heat up with the fiery and energetic
"Vasquez" as it moves between Latin and swing.
The organized chaos at the beginning of "Daze"
is engaging and sets the mood for the rest of the piece. The fact
that it never sounds cluttered is a testament to McNeill's talent
as an arranger. His treatment of Cole Porters "All of You"
is clever, charming and again, shows how a lot can be said with
only a little when the right notes are chosen.
If there was any doubt before, Dean McNeill
has proven with Prairie Fire that he possesses serious musical
talent. It is exciting to think of what other music might be created
and documented if it were possible for composers and musicians
of this caliber to be able to collaborate more often on projects
of this size. Though it's unfortunate this isn't always the case,
it does make us appreciate the high quality accomplishments like
Prairie Fire even more.
- Review by Nick Lavigne, Canadian Association
for Jazz Education
the Canadian Association for Jazz Education website
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