by Bea Willis
The Lao Tizer Band is a group that has focused on making its own sound. They have taken the time to grow as a band, both in size and in their own unique sound and style. This is evident in the music on their CD/DVD combo, Songs From The Swinghouse: recorded live in just three days at Conway Studios in Hollywood. At the helm is Lao Tizer (piano, keys, organ, bandleader), he leads the band as they explore three cover tunes with a vocalist, a first for the group, as well as, original instrumental tracks. Eight original instrumentals and three iconic classic rock songs that have been re-imagined with the warm and soulful vocals of Tita Hutchison: Led Zeppelin’s “Ramble On,” U2’s “Pride (In The Name Of Love),” and Cat Stevens’ “Sad Lisa.” Critically acclaimed music-film director, Andy LaViolette (Snarky Puppy, Bokante, David Crosby, etc), documented the entire session in a simultaneous, 8-camera HD video shoot for the included DVD.
Hutchison joins Tizer’s regular collaborators: Chieli Minucci, the three-time Emmy-winning and Grammy® Award-nominated guitarist and composer; Grammy® Award-winning saxophonist Eric Marienthal, who is a permanent member of the Chick Corea Elektric Band; longtime member and EWI/saxophonist/multi-instrumentalist Steve Nieves; and violinist Karen Briggs, who has graced the stage with Yanni, Diana Ross, Wu-Tang Clan, Chaka Khan and more. Tizer also credits the powerhouse rhythm section (bass players include Grammy® Award-nominee Ric Fierabracci and Cheikh NDoye, Grammy® Award-nominated drummer Gene Coye, and percussionist Munyungo Jackson) with underpinning the dynamic force and arrangements for the project. The group in fact stretches to 15 members at times with the addition of a string quartet, horn section, and a marimba player.
“Metropolis” is a fine example of the diversity that this band contains. All set to an infectious funk groove, the melody is multi-faceted and richly textured. Tizer’s composition flows through multiple feels and is always full of musicality. The journey is filled with excellent playing from the ensemble of world-renowned musicians. They easily meld the world of jazz and world-fusion into a sizzling collection melodies and solos. Minucci’s and Tizer’s solo exchanges at the end of the tune is inspired!
U2’s “Pride (In The Name Of Love),” is given a nice overhaul, with hip band hits, fresh harmony and a groove that blends the best of R&B, Soul with jazz fusion. The arrangement still contains all the hallmarks of Tizer’s original compositions: multiple feel changes, a flowing form and space for each member to shine in the spot light. Hutchison’s interpretation of the melody is outstanding, soulful and with a nice dose of blues embellishments. This is very hip; the band is on fire and Hutchison blends nicely within the bands style and dynamics.
It is nice to hear a jazz artist expand his artistic palette and embrace a wider range of influences and stretch himself and his players to pull off such an ambitious project. The project is very successful and Songs From The Swinghouse is an enthralling listen. The original material and group chemistry is ultimately the key to the great music. Tizer has his own voice and continues to evolve as a composer, this project is magical!
Tracks to sample first: “16th Heaven,” “Metropolis,” The song to take a chance on is “Codes.”