Review by Eric Ciarmello
Photograph by Andrzej Pilarczyk
He walked like them, he dressed like them, he spoke like them. He stood in the lobby of the SCCC School of Music, chatting in a group of four or five, as if he had just come to see what this Empire Jazz Orchestra was all about. It wasn’t Dave Holland’s lack of presence that rendered him unnoticed, but his lack of ego.
The hall had all the buzz of a Broadway show. A 17-piece big band set-up sat vacant atop the stage of the auditorium, eagerly awaiting their musicians arrival. As the audience filed into their seats, Holland followed, eager to catch the first act of music.
Act 1, scene 1. The Empire Jazz Orchestra came out of the gates with a Gordon Goodwin arrangement of Miles Davis’ “Seven Steps to Heaven.” After a somewhat precarious start, Bob Halek, Otto Gardner and Cliff Brucker quickly snapped the horns back to attention. Halek dug the pocket out of his ride just deep enough for Brucker and Gardner to nestle in comfortably. From that point on, the intensity of the show rose exponentially.