Barton Chronicle Article

The winding route to becoming an acclaimed jazz sax player

“From the Boston area comes “No Place to Hide” from the New World Jazz Composers Octet. This is a remarkable recording of new music from a variety of Boston-based composers, including Ted Pease, Bob Pilkington and Ken Schaphorst. The music is played by a crack outfit that includes the incisive trumpet work of Ken Cervenka, the fine work of saxophonists Daniel Ian Smith and Daryl Lowery and the explosive rhythm section of bassist Keala Kaumeheiwa (one of the best in the northeast), drummer Steve Langone and percussionist Ricardo Monzon. “No Place to Hide” offers a fine example of medium sized jazz ensemble music that is refreshing and inspired. ”

-Alan Chase, The Wire

“As its name professes, the Boston-area based New World Jazz Composers Octet is not, strictly speaking, a big band. On the other hand, it has a big sound, thanks in part to well-shaped charts, and is admirable enough in other respects to warrant an appraisal even in a narrative that is devoted for the most part to larger ensembles.Transitions, which is presumably the group’s first album, consists of nine original compositions by five writers (three numbers each by Matthew Nicholl and co-producer Ted Pease, the others by Richard Grudzinski, Edgar Dorantes and Ken Schaphorst).

While the viewpoint is contemporary, the essential building blocks of pleasurable music, namely melody, harmony and rhythm, are never slighted, and there is much to admire in the various moods and tempos, not to mention the ways in which the assorted instruments are used to underline and enhance the listening experience. To add even more variety, brief “Interludes” featuring various members of the ensemble, which seem more spontaneous than written, have been inserted between seven of the nine selections. One of those heard most often is the group’s de facto leader, Daniel Ian Smith, a resourceful soloist on soprano, alto and baritone saxophones and on flute.

Besides Smith, two trumpeters—Ken Cervenka and Walter Platt—share the front line with tenor saxophonist Dino Govoni, while drummer Steve Langone anchors a stalwart rhythm section whose other members are pianist Tim Ray, bassist Keala Kaumeheiwa and percussionist Ernesto Diaz. Pease’s compositions (“Triple Play,” “And Now for Something Completely Different,” “Spring Rounds”) are earnestly engaging, as are those by Nicholl (“Without a Paddle,” “Empty Room, Bare Walls,” “Komla’s Saudade”). Grudzinski’s “Meta Mambo” is a buoyant opener, Schaphorst’s “Bats” a high-flying show-stopper, Dorantes’ “Transition” an easygoing vehicle for Smith’s resonant baritone and a tasteful flugel solo by Cervenka.

As noted, not a big band but a group that is certainly worth hearing and appreciating. Hats off to Smith, Pease and their colleagues for making such charming and tasteful music accessible.”

From Jack Bowers at All About


The New World Jazz Composers Octet
Big and Phat Jazz Productions

By Bill Milkowski

Saxophonist and Berklee educator Daniel Ian Smith leads this Boston-based group of composers and fellow educators who have also amassed an impressive list of sideman credits. A wide-ranging program that covers Latin jazz (Richard Grudzinski’s “Meta Mambo”), Third Stream (Ted Pease’s Stravinsky-inspired “Spring Rounds”), funk (Matthew Nicholl’s Brecker Brothers-ish “Without a Paddle”), samba (Nicholl’s lively “Komla’s Saudade”), bebop (Ken Schaphorst’s blazing “Bats”) and New Orleans street beats (Pease’s “And Now for Something Completely Different”), this collection is tied together by free-form interludes from the band members: percussionist Ernesto Diaz, baritone saxophonist Smith, drummer Steve Langone and pianist Tim Ray. Refined ideas, outstanding playing.

DownBeat Magazine November 2010 (page 65)

The New World Jazz Composers Octet Transitions Big & Phat Jazz Productions 1021


The octet demonstrates a highly charged Latin bent featuring traps and conga on mambo, bolero, boogaloo, ballad. Ensembles unfold with relaxed confidence and solos with polished conviction. Tim Ray’s every piano statement—from tossed off interludes to well-framed solos—smacks of aware genius. Ken Cervenka’s candid brass work burnishes bolero and ballad. Daniel Ian Smith’s alto and bari declaim telling choruses; Dino Govoni’s tenor sparkles. Improvised solo interludes conceptually space and mirror the tracks: Smith’s raw skitterings and Ray’s furtive curlicues presage and pique a bouncy Matthew Nicholl samba; Steve Langone’s traps and Ernesto Diaz’s congas rally with Smith for puckish whimsy.

Halfway through Transitions, Ted Pease’s airy yet weighty centerpieces raise the bar, tweak us to reflect on magic, mystery and majesty. Something pairs cup-muted trumpets over strutting street-beat, as staccato lines weave Bartok-like over a swirl of solo moods—Smith eloquent, Ray ebullient, Govoni rampant. The march segues to the seductive, tidal “Spring Rounds”: Those trumpets twine around Smith’s creamy alto in a sexy Rite Of Spring bolero. Solos unfold organically from Ray, Smith’s enchanted alto in a mesmerizing cosmic dance, when, at the gnashing climax, solo bass startlingly echoes the Rite’s eerie dawn-call.

—Fred Bouchard

From Steve Elmen, review of Transitions CD and Arsenal Arts Center Concert October, 2010