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The Boston Globe

Music

Noisy Neighbors

JCA Orchestra, ‘Stories’

Boston’s Jazz Composers Alliance Orchestra here offers eight pieces with thematic narratives, some with words, some not. In “November, 1938,” composer Darrell Katz revisits a section of “The Death of Simone Weil,” his six-movement setting of a text by poet Paula Tatarunis about the philosopher and mystic who died in 1943. Katz’s command of evocative orchestral harmony as well as a lovely melody (sung by JCAO vocalist Rebecca Shrimpton) convey longing and ultimate grace, with a bit of jazz swing. Similarly, in “Chazz’s Mingus Story,” Shrimpton and composer Warren Senders split a spoken-word fairy tale about a personal encounter with the great jazz bassist and composer — this time, personal turmoil is relieved by joyous, Mingus-like collective improvisation. Bob Pilkington’s “Aftermath” considers a natural disaster, moving from an eerie atonality to a final surge of regeneration in rhythm, harmony, and melody. Some pieces are just downright fun, like Norman Zocher’s “Wiggy Diggy” with its matching of pedal steel guitar, vibes, and a hard-rocking voice-and-horn riff. Or take Jim Hobbs’s positively Ellingtonian instrumental, “A Girl.” It is, Hobbs’ notes say, “A song about a girl.” Some stories are pretty simple after all.

Jon Garelick

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