Tom Varner, Nine Surprises (Tom Varner Music)
In writing for his nine-piece ensemble, Tom Varner layers and interleaves parts for the seven horns so that his textures of harmony and rhythm often create the illusion of a larger band. His skill as a composer and arranger equals his virtuosity as one of the few first-rate French horn improvisers in jazz history. “Seattle Blues,” the sixth movement in this 15-part suite, is a prime example of his achievement in both areas. In the decade since he moved from New York to Seattle, Varner has shaped this ensemble to balance precise musicianship with a feeling of abandon more often expected in free jazz or New Orleans street ensembles. Other impressive soloists are trumpeter Thomas Marriott, bassist Phil Sparks, clarinetist Steve Treseler, drummer Byron Vannoy, trombonist David Marriott and saxophonists Mark Taylor, Jim DeJoie and Eric Barber. Hey, that’s the whole band.