With recording technology as advanced and as affordable as it is today, the sonic power once found only in the most prestigious studios in the world is now available to your typical high school garage band. Today's young musicians have it, comparatively, pretty easy. Yet there's no reason why musicians with somewhat finer chops who have been performing for three decades couldn't take advantage of the digital revolution as well.
Case in point: the Spokane Jazz Orchestra, which is now celebrating its 30th season. The band may have the distinction of being the oldest continually performing professional community jazz orchestra in America, but they are only now capturing some of that performance magic and placing it into a form that can be enjoyed by anyone, anytime, anywhere -- on a new album called, fittingly, It's About Time.
"Although the SJO has existed since 1975," explains Music Director Dan Keberle, "this is the very first CD we have ever recorded."
It's About Time was recorded live to 24-track digital during two sessions, one in December after last year's Holiday Jazz concert, and one in May after the spring concert. That's live -- no overdubs, no fiddling with the tracks after they were recorded. Imagine more than a dozen musicians playing together and hitting everything just right on the first run. But Keberle says that's all pretty standard for the SJO, a reflection of the talent and professionalism found within this group.
"The band had not only been rehearsing the music for the concerts but also had performed everything," he says. "They played extremely well at the recording session, though they were under a lot of pressure when you only do one take."
There are 12 pieces on the album, exploring the roots and the many strengths of SJO. Nine of the 12 pieces are either originals or arrangements by Northwest jazz composers -- several of whom are in the SJO, including Keberle, Tom Molter, Greg Yasinitsky and Brent Edstrom. Guest vocalist Charlotte Carruthers lends her talents to "Makin' Whoopie" and "It's Almost Like Being In Love".
"It represents what SJO is all about," says Keberle. "A really solid and swinging big band with fantastic soloists."