Album Review of
Take It All (Live)

Written by Robert Silverstein
June 5, 2022 - 5:21pm EDT
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The sound of all-instrumental big-band jazz is alive and well with the 2022 CD release of Take It All by the Wisconsin-based Milwaukee Jazz Orchestra. MJO is spearheaded by saxophonist and music educator Curt Hanrahan and also features his brother Warren Hanrahan on drums. Both Hanrahan’s are co-directors of the MJO, which was started as a result of Hanrahan’s involvement with the Woody Herman Jazz Festival. MJO released their first album Welcome To Swingsville! in 2017.

For fans of big band jazz, Take It All is as good as it gets. Featuring upwards of 20 musicians, the sound is primarily horn-based with a number of woodwinds, trombones and trumpets punctuating the powerful big-band sound. There’s also a first-rate rhythm section, led by Warren Hanrahan on drums, including bass, guitar, percussion and piano.

Musically, the six track, 43-minute Take It All is very varied. The lead-off title track, written by Wisconsin native Fred Sturm, pays tribute to the great jazz arrangers, including Gil Evans and Duke Ellington. Another highlight is the Curt Hanrahan arranged “Sweet Georgia Brown”, with this version of the 1925 song transcribed from a 1977 performance of the tune by Oscar Peterson live at the Montreux Jazz Festival.

Reflecting the angst of the Covid era, track 5 “Covidity” was written by Curt Hanrahan and, as stated in the liner notes, was inspired by the Dave Liebman track “The New Breed”. Another Curt Hanrahan composition, “Souljourner” is inspired by the jazz-fusion era of the 1970s. Proof that big band music is timeless, Take It All serves as a fine introduction to the mighty Milwaukee Jazz Orchestra.