It's kind of a cheap play on words, but let's go for it anyway: What makes the music on John Daversa's Junk Wagon: The Big Band Album so exciting and so innovative is its Daversa-ty. As Bob Mintzer, the renowned saxophonist and longtime Yellowjackets member, puts it in his liner notes, This CD is not Basie, not Ellington, not Kenton, not Gil Evans." It's John Daversa, big band music for 2011, not 1941. The arrangements, the attitude, the thought processes behind the composition, the level of virtuosity, reflect the world we live in and the state of jazz today. Junk Wagon, released in partnership with BFM Jazz, is progressive, not retrogressive, and every rich moment is one to savor.
Recorded in May 2010 at The Bridge Recording in Glendale, California, and produced by Tim Weston, Junk Wagon's nine expansive tracks were all written and arranged by Daversa, who serves as the album's director as well as playing trumpet, EVI (Electric Valve Instrument), piano and singing. A large cast of woodwinds, brass and a razor-sharp rhythm section bring Daversa's songs to glorious, multi-hued fruition, anticipating each unexpected twist of phrase and new splash of sonic color. The basic big band is augmented by a bevy of guest players on various horns, plus several additional vocalists on the lead track, the stunning The Bridge, Part 1."
John Daversa has long been a fixture around the Los Angeles area, where he performs with his Progressive Big Band as well as his own, appropriately named John Daversa Small Group. John is also active as a producer (James Tormé's debut studio album, Love for Sale) and an educator (USC's Thornton School of Music, where he is a faculty member), and has worked as a sideman for artists as diverse as Burt Bacharach, the Yellowjackets, Sheryl Crow, Dr. Dre and Michael Buble.
Above all, it's his superb musicianship that gains Daversa respect from all who encounter him. Said the Los Angeles Times, Daversa gets sounds to come out of his little red trumpet like you never heard. The band itself ditto, as if Duke Ellington and Béla Bartók had come down from on high and written some brilliant 21st century music for a big band of Berklee post-graduate superstars."
In his liner notes for Junk Wagon, Mintzer writes, John Daversa is one of those rare musicians who is an incredible soloist and an accomplished orchestrator, a composer with an identifiable voice, and an articulate artist who does things in a focused way, always with a clear vision of the hows and whys."
Jonathan Losk, the album's executive producer, says in the album's notes that The passion, love, sweat, joy, funk, playfulness and intelligence are in the music. You can hear it." That just about nails it. But only after hearing Junk Wagon yourself will you fully appreciate just how spot-on that statement is.