Ayn Inserto: Home Away From Home
The title of Boston composer/arranger Ayn Inserto's third album wasn't arbitrarily chosen. More to the point, Home Away From Home alludes to the recording's unique background. A number of years ago, Italian trombonist Massimo Morganti caught a performance at the Berklee Performance Center by the Ayn Inserto Jazz Orchestra featuring trombonist Bob Brookmeyer (Inserto's jazz composition teacher at the New England Conservatory) and tenor saxophonist George Garzone, both of whom contributed to her debut album, Clairvoyance, in 2006. Suitably impressed, Morganti arranged for her to travel to Italy for a series of workshops with his Colours Jazz Orchestra and, having established a strong rapport with the band, Inserto returned the following year for a number of performances featuring material now documented on her follow-up to 2009's Muse.
An associate professor of jazz composition at Berklee College of Music, the Singapore-born Inserto has won multiple awards and performed all over the world. Certainly traces of Brookmeyer's influence are evident in her work (Gil Evans's, too), but that's only natural. More important is the fact that Inserto has over the past decade developed her own voice and produced an impressive collection of original work. Rich in harmony and colour, her music holds up perfectly well alongside others in the same field, and the stylistic variety and imagination captured on Home Away From Home show her ability to work convincingly in different idioms.
The album features seven pieces, all previously unrecorded and of contrasting character. On the fifty-three-minute date, luscious settings solidly in the big band tradition (“Down a Rabbit Hole,” for instance) rub shoulders with both a swinging funk piece (“Hang Around”) and an album-closer that sounds as much calypso-flavoured as Latin-tinged (“Subo”). Inserto's writing and arranging can be audacious, as shown when the cheekily titled opener “You're Leaving? But I Just Got Here” begins with a dialogue between drum brushes and soprano saxophone before flowering into a vigorous ensemble arrangement featuring both full band playing and solos, including robust interweaving statements by the soprano saxist and trumpeter.
The band's at its luscious best during the ballad setting “La Danza Infinita,” a beautiful example of Inserto's writing and the Colours Jazz Orchestra's ability to play with elegance and subtlety when the need arises. While it's an especially wonderful showcase for the woodwinds, the horns are as well-served by the piece, too. Also included is a re-imagining of Joe Henderson's “Recorda Me,” which finds the late artist's persona present in both the bold saxophone solo that appears midway through and the suave melodic resonance of the piece.
A few things separate the Colours Jazz Orchestra from others of its ilk. The drummer sometimes plays with a looser feel than one typically hears from a drummer in a big band context, and the tenor saxist likewise dishes out a wild solo or two of the kind favoured by someone like David Murray. But while it's easy to have one's attention fixate on the band's playing, let's not forget that, with all of the material having been composed by Inserto, Home Away From Home is still very much her date.