Jim McNeely, The Frankfurt Radio Big Band, Barefoot Dances and Other Visions (Planet Arts)
McNeely fortifies his position in the upper echelon of jazz arrangers in this set of new pieces for the formidable Frankfurt Radio Big Band. The album begins with his tribute to the late Bob Brookmeyer, “Bob’s Here.” Despite the dedication to the iconic player of the instrument, Christian Jaksjö manages to be himself on valve trombone. Indeed, all of the Frankfurt BB soloists—too many to name in a brief recommendation—are top-flight. Wait, I must mention the tag-team tenor saxophone work of Tony Lakatos and Steffen Weber in “Falling Upwards.” McNeely pays tribute to the arranging pioneer Don Redman, incorporating the classic Redman device of clarinet trios into “Redman Rides Again,” a piece that otherwise does not evoke the 1920s. In four other new compositions, McNeely’s writing is notable for its textures, intersecting lines across the horn sections and ingenious use of time relationships.