September 06, 2006

Contemporary Jazz Orchestra

The Contemporary Jazz Orchestra is a 16-piece jazz ensemble featuring top-notch musicians of the Bay Area. As the West Coast’s answer to the long-standing tradition of the Vanguard Orchestra in New York City, the CJO has been playing Monday nights at Jazz at Pearl's in San Francisco for over 11 years. In January of 1995, saxophonist Christopher Pitts quickly established his hand-selected band as an exciting be-bop and post-bop experience featuring the music of Thad Jones, Oliver Nelson, Frank Foster, Duke Ellington and Charles Mingus. In April of 2000, Pitts relocated to Boston, leaving the orchestra in the hands of saxophonist/arranger Alex Budman. In five years under Budman's direction, original arrangements were added and recorded, giving the band a unique identity and a new bent toward original music. Alex recently relocated to Los Angeles, leaving the band with 11-year CJO veteran saxophonist and arranger Tod Dickow.

The CJO has featured many talented vocalists including Kim Nalley, Duane Lawrence, Jamie Davis, Denise Perrier and Kenny Washington.

Over its 11-year history, the band has performed at the Monterey Jazz Festival, the Fillmore Jazz Festival, KCSM's Jazz on the Hill, Spreckels Performing Arts Series, KXJZ's Waterfront concerts, SF's Black and White Ball and Yoshi's Jazz House.

The first release, Live at Pearl's was recorded in 1996. The CD features Christopher Pitts as well as Ron Stallings, Warren Gale, Eric Crystal, Harvey Weinapel, Mark Levine, etc...

Trench Heroes was recorded live at Yoshi's in Oakland in December of 1999, released in fall of 2001. The line-up included Pitts along with Marty Wehner, Eric Crystal, Chuck MacKinnon, Tony Corman, Danny Spencer, etc... At the time of this recording, the band had several years experience and the concert included powerful and exciting performances. Veteran CJO vocalist Duane Lawrence is featured on two tracks.

Monday in the City was recorded in December of 2001 and released in April of 2002. Recorded at Jazz at Pearl's by Jeff Cressman, this album captured the CJO on its final Monday performance of the year. Under the direction of Alex Budman, the orchestra featured some new faces including Matt Clark, Mike Olmos, Charles McNeal, Gene Burkert and Andrew Eberhard. The recording produced great solo performances as well as a cohesive ensemble sound.

Their newest album, Instruments of Mass Pleasure was recorded in February of 2005 and released October 18th. It is the first CJO album recorded in the studio and the first to feature entirely original compositions. The arrangements are tight and controlled, but the soloists and rhythm section play with the freedom that has become a trademark of the CJO.

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