November 2, 2019. Guitarist, composer and arranger Peter Hand already had a lot of big band experience under his belt when he launched The Peter Hand Big Band in 2005, and it shows. The players were well-known, and the song selection was perfect for them.
On Peter’s latest creation, Hand Painted Dream, the caliber of the musicians remains high, and the bar is raised with the addition of a Downbeat “Rising Star” and a string quartet.
Vocalist and saxophonist Camille Thurman is the “Rising Star,” joining the band on two tracks. She lends her voice to a stirring rendition of the Tadd Dameron classic “If You Could See Me Now,” and plays tenor on the bouncy Hand original called “Calypsiana.” Versatility is not scarce with this group, so Thurman is the perfect guest artist for this project.
Some familiar pieces grace this album, with nods to Charlie Parker, and Randy Weston. Hand’s arrangements always do justice to the compositions, as well as the musicians. The final cut is a melding of Coltrane’s “Mr. PC” and “Cousin Mary.” Not many big bands would have been able to pull this off, but these pros keep it tight and cool. With players like Don Braden, Valery Ponomarev and Harvie S in the mix, you know this band can swing.
This album also features five compositions by Peter Hand, a few of which have a Caribbean theme. This is likely due to the two years Hand lived in St. Thomas, and is a win for the listener, as his experience with island and Brazilian music makes for an eclectic listening experience. The multi-layered “Island of the Heart” is a great example of how a large ensemble can deliver this type of music.
The title track of Hand Painted Dream is also a Hand original, and features a welcome surprise – The Secret String Quartet. Violinists Jennifer Choi and Cornelius Dufallo, violist Lev Zhurbin and cellist Yves Dharamraj create the ambiance and mystique needed to execute Hand’s masterful vision.
As if having an “all-star” big band isn’t enough of a slam-dunk, the special guests on this album make for a truly exhilarating listening experience. This is far from a standard big band release.