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  • Jonathan Widran


It’s been almost ten years since the Dave Slonaker Big Band earned a Best Large Jazz Ensemble Grammy for their critically acclaimed debut album Intrada – but the extreme amount of time between that classic and the group’s latest Convergency is understandable.

When he’s not writing, arranging and conducting his tuneful, vibrant and swinging compositions for the Big Band, he’s busy as one of the top arrangers and orchestrators in film and TV (Spiderman, Men In Black, several Star Trek series). And the crew of L.A. jazz greats he assembles for these endeavors feature some of the busiest session and live musicians on the scene – including Bob Sheppard, Brian Scanlon, Rob Lockart, Wayne Bergeron, Clay Jenkins, Larry Koonse and Peter Erskine.

The monumental work it must take coordinating the logistics to create Convergency pays off in dynamic, sometimes emotionally subtle but usually high spirited, boisterous ways. Two elements set the Slonaker band apart from other contemporary big band groups. First, with the lone exception of his romantic, lighthearted arrangement of “I Had The Craziest Dream” – a tune he calls “one of the great love songs” – Slonaker writes all of his band’s material, starting with the urgent percussive swing of the title track and wrapping the nine originals with the snappy, relentlessly energetic, triple trombone driven “And Now the News.”

Even more unique, as a lover of the individual tonal colors of a large jazz ensemble, the composer/arranger makes every piece an expansive canvass that allows several members of the band to shine as soloists. On Convergency, despite the joyful gale force of the brass-intensive vibe, some of the best moments come from these spotlights – including Jenkins and baritone saxophonist Adam Schroeder on the title track, Koonse on “Uncommonly Ground,” Scanlon, Koonse and Erskine on the Native American inspired “A Gathering Circle” and Sheppard’s dreamy, lyrical soprano expression on the moody, gently swaying “Vanishing Point.”


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