The Prickle (@ThePrickle) December 21, 2018
The Jacob Mann Big Band debuted in 2016 with the humorously titled Greatest Hits, Vol. 1, an EP produced by Jacob Mann himself, who plays piano (and synth) as well as composing and arranging the four tracks, for the 17-piece big band ensemble, including none other than Louis Cole on drums.
“Kogi” seems an obvious funky highlight, featuring insane syncopation in absolutely every note of the unpredictable, chordal melody, and the whole band sounding outrageously tight. The trumpets (Mitchell Cooper, Gabe Martin, J.J. Kirkpatrick, Andris Mattson) have an extraordinarily bright, confident sound that is usually lacking in big band recordings. In “Pronk”, Mann lets rip with a cosmic synth solo in the second half, which gives way to a superhero theme on trumpets; it’s epic.
Greatest Hits, Vol. 2 came out in 2018, with a slightly more avant-garde quality. For example, “Don’t Fly Spirit” literally ends with unaccompanied chaotic squealing and falls from the brass. “Hold Music” centres around a continuous, syncopated triplet figure on one note only, which is shared around the whole band. But “Parking Ticket” offers us a growling, menacing groove that’s ostensibly more mainstream, albeit still not exactly as tonally centred as the tracks on Vol. 1.
Jacob Mann has written and arranged eight phenomenal “hits” here, and both EPs also serve as a record of the mind-blowing musicianship of these instrumentalists. Although the studio recordings are likely to make listeners want to get out there to experience the Jacob Mann Big Band live, the recordings themselves are so beautifully done that they definitely merit appreciating on their own terms.
Follow the Jacob Mann Big Band on Bandcamp.