By Dodie Miller-Gould
Musician and bandleader, Andrew Neu, has released a new album. “Catwalk,” promises to demonstrate the big band side of Neu, and it does that. Neu is known for being a master of various musical styles, including funk, classical, and jazz. “Catwalk” is Neu’s fourth jazz album, and it is brimming with a fun and stylish energy that audiences expect of big band music with a modern edge. The album is comprised of 11 songs, eight of which are original. The rest are classics that have been imbued with Neu’s various twists. While the classics are thoughtful inclusions, the standouts are Neu’s original works, such as “Juggernaut” and “Alpha Dog.”
About Andrew Neu
In addition to his work as a musician, Neu is also a voting member of the Grammy Awards and NARAS. Neu is a graduate of Temple University’s Esther Boyer School of Music. He honed his musical skills by sharing the stage with the likes of The Temptations, Melissa Manchester, Mel Torme, Patti LaBelle and more. Neu’s recording history dates to 2000, and in 2009, he made his debut on NuGroove Records. Neu’s 2009 recording, “Try Something Neu,” debuted in the top 20 of the smooth jazz charts.
Neu further distinguishes himself as a performer by playing multiple instruments. He plays saxophone, flute and alto flute. He plays all those instruments on “Catwalk.” In 2013, Neu’s album, “Everything Happens for a Reason” reached No. 3 on the jazz charts. The work is characterized by a full orchestra and found Neu working with several well-known musicians, including Jeff Lorber, Rick Braun, and Bobby Caldwell.
“Juggernaut” by Andrew Neu
Multiple horn sections create classic tension. Saxophones create a line that dances against a swinging orchestra. The sound easily evokes dance steps. There is more than one standard at work in Neu’s approach here. The fast, jazzy horn notes are both classic and pop jazz-oriented. While the song is fast-paced, it is not light-hearted. “Juggernaut” is infused with a depth of sound and feeling that sounds like a celebration of cool and confidence.
That cool, swinging ambiance is found throughout the song. In addition to the many players in the ensemble Neu has put together, there is also Andrew Lippman on trombone. Neu himself plays tenor sax.
The series of motifs and the never-ending energy makes the song sound the way jazz was intended if a person could choose a classic sound to represent all of jazz.
“Alpha Dog” by Andrew Neu
The song features Anthony Bonsera on trumpet, Matt Hornbeck on guitar, Jamey Tate on drums, and Brian Bromberg on bass, in addition to Andrew Lippman on trombone.
Right away, sharp notes from what sounds like drums and saxophone kick the song open. A chorus of horns play a swift motif. A bass groove begins and is echoed in the piano. The saxophone is flexible and smooth. Less than halfway through a sort of Latin rhythm is picked up before the horn and drum groove returns.
A guitar solo is reminiscent of the 1970s that cuts through the groove. While the guitar is reaching its most searing notes, horns return. That emphasis on horns signals another horn motif that is lighter, but no less groove-oriented than the previous ones.
With a title like “Alpha Dog,” it was difficult to imagine what Neu and his ensemble would put together. But in all, the song is a muscular piece of jazz with enough varying dynamics to keep it from being too dense or overbearing.
Neu seems to excel at making jazz with just enough weight and movement to be serious, but flexible enough to be classic and energetic. The various genres that Neu has studied certainly seem to have come to bear on this album.