Bill Kirchner, Lifeline (Jazzheads)
In 2008, I initiated an occasional series called Medium But Well Done. It highlights the accomplishments of groups bigger than combos but smaller than big bands. Introducing it, I wrote, “Six to eleven pieces allow arrangers freedom that the conventions and sheer size of sixteen-piece bands tend to limit.” There is no better recent illustration of that proposition than this release by Bill Kirchner’s Nonet. His arrangements of pieces by composers including Wayne Shorter, Cole Porter, Denny Zeitlin and Kirchner himself show that a skilled writer using what some might consider a limited palette can achieve excitement, expansiveness and an impressive range of tonal colors. His adventurous three-part “Lifeline Suite” is an important contribution to the literature of mid-sized bands.