It is good to hear that the big bands never went away - not since their heyday in the 30's/40's. Since then they have been less about dancing and more about ambitious compositions and arrangements. Stan Kenton was a leading light in this regard and who treated the Jazz Ensemble rather like a classical orchestra. Other band leaders have followed his example these last 75 years since the end of WWII.
Here is an interesting article in the Jazz Times written by Michael J West:'
We all know that the big bands never went away. These days, however, they’re having enough of a moment that the New York Times published an article about it at the start of this year. In the 21st century, a large jazz ensemble is less about generating fodder for dancing (though there are certainly big bands that pursue that end) and more about ambitious compositions and arrangements. If the bands below have anything in common—aside from the obvious—it’s certainly ambition.
Actually, they have a few more things in common. With two exceptions, the bands below all made their debuts after 2000. The outliers are included because of their outsize influence. They also have all released recordings; much as we would have liked to include Igmar Thomas’ Revive Big Band (an exciting project, to say the least), they have yet to drop their long-awaited first album. There are many others that didn’t make the cut, but we hope those that did will give you a sense of the depth and richness of the current big-band jazz landscape.
1. Darcy James Argue's Secret Society: Infernal Machines (New Amsterdam, 2009)
2. Orrin Evans’ Captain Black Big Band: Mother’s Touch (Posi-Tone, 2014)
3. Maria Schneider Orchestra: The Thompson Fields (ArtistShare, 2015)
4. Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band: Life in the Bubble (Telarc, 2014)
5. Miho Hazama and m_unit: Time River (Sunnyside, 2015)
6. Royal Krunk Jazz Orkestra: Pyramids (Ropeadope, 2019)
7. Fire! Orchestra: Ritual (Rune Grammofon, 2016)
8. Snarky Puppy: Culcha Vulcha (GroundUP, 2016)
9. John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble: All Can Work (New Amsterdam, 2018)
10. Big Heart Machine: Big Heart Machine (Outside In, 2018)