John Aram – Rhapsody In Red

In 1924 the famous bandleader Paul Whiteman commissioned George Gershwin to put together a piece for solo piano and jazz band.

Gershwin almost didn’t do it because he didn’t think he was given enough time to write it. Luckily for us he did write it. Rhapsody in Blue is one of the most easily recognizable pieces of music on the planet.

John Aram & the United Underground Orchestra featuring Joe Locke & Tim Garland put together Rhapsody In Red an homage to this classic piece.

Trombonist John Aram leads a twelve piece band with musicians from Switzerland, Britain, and a singer from America.

John studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London. He’s played all over Europe and the USA as a sideman and with his own quintet. Three members of that quintet Tom Cawley on piano, Phil Donkin on bass, and Arthur Hnatek on drums play in the United Underground Orchestra.

George Gershwin said he came up with Rhapsody in Blue while he was riding a train, with its “steely rhythms and its rattle-ty bang.”

Those jerky rhythms might help explain the origin of that easily recognizable clarinet opening of Rhapsody in Blue. Tim Garland’s Rhapsody in Red borrows that same opening but we get to hear Tom Cawley play it on piano. Cawley plays it a little faster, maybe a little more dissonant, and them members from this great band join in.

Tim Garland has some amazing saxophone solos and he wrote some of the compositions. He also rearranged some of the original themes from Rhapsody in Blue but you don’t have to be familiar with Gershwin’s masterpiece to enjoy this recording.

Special guest vibraphone master Joe Locke plays a lot on this CD, probably more than any of the other players. He’s a little more aggressive than, say, Gary Burton so he fits right in with the pugnacious brass and sax players.

Another guest; singer Amy Key’s three songs are a beautiful counterpoint to what’s going on here. I couldn’t help thinking about Randy Crawford and the Crusaders from the seventies; another singer with a pop sensibility fronting a big band.

I keep going back to Gershwin’s “steely rhythms” of that train he was on.

Those same rhythms are oh so evident in “Blues For Little Joe.” Rob Luft plays a beautiful guitar solo on this as well. I think George Gershwin would like this tribute to his work. I know I do.

You can listen to Rhapsody In Red via Bandcamp

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