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CD Review: David Bloom, Cliff Colnot - Contender

David Bloom – Compositions, guitar

Cliff Colnot – Arrangements

Rob Parton – Trumpet and flugelhorn

Tom Garling – Trombone

Tom Matta – Trombone

David Griffin – French horn

Jennifer Clippert – Alto and bass flute

Jennifer Gunn – Alto flute

Mary Stolper – Alto flute

Jim Gailoretto – Soprano and tenor saxophones

Mike Smith – Alto saxophone

Paul Mertens – Alto saxophone

Mark Colby – Tenor saxophone

Linda Van Dyke – Bass clarinet and

baritone saxophone

Andy Nogal – English horn, oboe

Bill Buchman – Bassoon

Jeremy Kahn – Piano

Katinka Kleijn – Cello

Larry Kohut – Bass

Eric Hochberg – Bass

Victor Lewis – Drums

Dana Hall – Drums and percussion

Cynthia Yeh – Percussion

Michael Kozakis – Percussion

Cheryl Wilson – Viola and Voice

Doyle Armbrust – Viola

Rose Armbrust – Viola

David Beytas – Viola

Carol Cook – Viola

Tony Devroye – Viola

Christine Due – Viola

Sixto Franco – Viola

Michael Liberman – Viola

Kevin Lin – Viola

Erin Rafferty – Viola

The cinematic Contender is guitarist and composer David Bloom’s third collaboration with arranger Cliff Colnot. It features variously sized ensembles that range from a tight sextet on the intimate and summery “First Smile,” to a big band that includes 11 violas on the expansive and dramatic “Presumptuous Assumption.”

Despite the changing and delightfully unusual instrumentation, two elements are common to all 10 tracks. For one, each composition is built around a unique and memorable refrain that flows from one section to another, and repeats from one musician to the next with some embellishments.

“I Remember Wes,” for instance, is built around an effervescent up-tempo melody with a languid, facile sway. Bloom himself performs the head, while the various band members exchange carefully orchestrated lines around his hypnotic vamps. Tenor saxophonist Mark Colby takes his turn in the spotlight with yearning lines and reverberating tones, followed by Bloom and his eloquent, darkly hued chords. Trumpeter Rob Parton complements Colby and Bloom with warm and mellow flugelhorn phrases. Overall, the piece has the nostalgic sound of a 1980s film soundtrack.

The second unifying theme of the album is Colnot’s careful and exact orchestration that creates mesmerizing ambiences, even though it does not allow for much spontaneous expression.

The magical, fairytale-like “Will or Won’t” opens with bassist Eric Hochberg’s pizzicato strings. English horn player Andy Nogal’s ethereal sound, mixed with violist and vocalist Cheryl Wilson’s wordless singing, gives the tune an otherworldly and pastoral lyricism.

Most of the solos are short and remain close to the written score, but there are a few spots of longer improvisations. One example is drummer Victor Lewis’ thunderous galloping beats and exuberant polyrhythms that elegantly bisect the celebratory “Coulda Been a Contenda.”

Overall Contender is a highly engaging and charming work that reflects not only Bloom and Colnot’s immense talents, but also its creators’ superb and brilliant synergy.


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