Ear Mind I

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Ear Mind I is the seventh release of diverse musical material for the Meridian Arts Ensemble. In the past, it has performed the music of composers as wide-ranging as Paul Hindemith, Witold Lutoslawski, Billy Strayhorn, Jimi Hendrix and, most notably, Frank Zappa. The six members of the group include John Ferreri (percussion), Raymond G. Stewart (tuba), Jon Nelson (trumpet), Daniel Grabois (horn), Josef Burgstaller (trumpet) and Benjamin Herrington (trombone).

Zappa is a recurring composer in their repertoire, having orchestrated more than 20 of his works for their ensemble. Their 1993 release, Smart Went Crazy, included five pieces including "Big Swifty" and "The Orange County Lumber Truck." This new album begins with six Zappa pieces which flow together as one suite -- "Lumpy Gravy," "Marqueson's Chicken," "King Kong," "Pygmy Twylyte," "Hungry Freaks Daddy" and "The Black Page." While the quality of the performance is consistent throughout, it's "King Kong" which stands out as the highlight of the set.

In addition to the works of other contemporary composers, such as Jason Forsythe ("Sanctity"), Su Lian Tan ("Moo Shu Wrap rap," which the composer describes as "Chinese hip hop") and Tom Pierson ("Brass Quintet"), there are also compositions by three members of the group. Percussionist John Ferrari is represented by "MAE We Strut?" and "Crunch." Trumpeter Jon Nelson has pieces, "Fanfare for Nothing" and "Sleepless," recorded here, as does Josef Burgstaller with "Dr. J. Geyser" and "Lullaby."

Finishing off the set is an arrangement by Benjamin Herrington of perennial jazz great Randy Brecker's mid-'70s work "Some Skunk Funk."

The result is a highly mixed bag of pieces which stretch from contemporary classical to a straight-ahead funk infusion. It's easy to see why these guys are considered tops in their field.

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