Nice Work (Dacapo Records)

The Danish Radio Jazz Orchestra & Jim McNeely

Released June 13, 2000

Grammy Nominee for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album 2001



A beacon in the Danish jazz scene

The DR Big Band offers musical experiences ranging over classic, swinging big band jazz, soft ballads, new compositions and wild jazz experiments – delivered with the energy, professionalism and precision of 19 top-tuned musicians.

The DR Big Band has been a shining light on the Danish jazz scene since 1964, and the band was at the forefront in the years when Copenhagen was home to an array of legen­­dary American jazzmen, With bandleaders like Thad Jones, Bob Brookmeyer, Jim McNeely and Palle Mikkelborg, the Danish Radio Big Band has also had a prominent position on the international jazz scene.

Jim McNeely

Jim McNeely was born in Chicago, and moved to New York City in 1975. In 1978 he joined the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra. He spent six years as a featured soloist with that band and its successor, Mel Lewis and the Jazz Orchestra (now The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra). 1981 saw the beginning of Jim’s 4-year tenure as pianist/composer with the Stan Getz Quartet. From 1990 until 1995 he held the piano chair in the Phil Woods Quintet. At the present time, he leads his own tentet, his own trio, and he appears as soloist at concerts and festivals worldwide.
Jim’s reputation as composer/arranger and conductor for large jazz bands continues to flourish, and has earned him ten Grammy nominations. In 1996 he re-joined The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra as pianist and Composer-in Residence. He is also chief conductor of the Frankfurt Radio (HR) Big Band. Other recent work includes projects with the Danish Radio Big Band (where he was chief conductor for five years), the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, the Metropole Orchestra (Netherlands), the Swiss Jazz Orchestra, and the Stockholm Jazz Orchestra. The New York Times has called his writing “exhilarating”; DownBeat has said that his music is “eloquent enough to be profound”.
Jim has appeared as sideman on numerous recordings led by major artists such as Thad Jones, Mel Lewis, Stan Getz, Bob Brookmeyer, David Liebman, Art Farmer, Robert Watson, and Phil Woods. He has numerous albums under his own name. The latest is “Barefoot Dances and Other Visions”, with the Frankfurt Radio Big Band on the Planet Arts label ((“A powerful suite…superb big band music…demonstrates a feel for arranging orchestral colors that is magical”—Jerome Wilson, All About Jazz)
Teaching is also an important element of Jim’s work. He is currently on the faculties of both Manhattan School of Music and William Paterson University. He was Musical Director of the BMI Jazz Composers’ Workshop from 1991-2015. He has appeared at numerous college jazz festivals as performer and clinician, and has been involved regularly with several summer workshops. He has also done clinics and major residencies at dozens of institutions in the U.S., Canada, Europe, China, Australia. New Zealand, and Egypt.

Track Listing:

1. Pete’s Feet (Jim McNeely) 8:13

2. …And Rhythm (Jim McNeely) 11:57

3. Moksha (Tomas Franck) 8:42

4. Rough Night (Jim McNeely) 16:28

5. Syretha’s Gift (Jim McNeely) 8:13

6. Reflection (Jim McNeely) 8:08

7. Nice Work If You Can Get It (George Gershwin / Ira Gershwin) 7:31


DR Big Band

Conductor: Jim McNeely

Bass: Mads Vinding (5), Thomas Ovesen (1-4, 6, 7)

Drums: Jonas Johansen

Guitar: Anders “Chico” Lindvall

Percussion: Ethan Weisgard

Piano: Nikolaj Bentzon

Reeds: Michael Hove (lead), Anders Gårdmand (5), Flemming Madsen, Nicolai Schultz, Tomas Franck, Uffe Markussen (1-4, 6, 7)

Trombone: Vincent Nilsson (lead), Axel Windfeld, Klaus Löhrer, Peter Jensen, Steen Hansen

Trumpet: Lars Lindgren (lead), Benny Rosenfeld, Henrik Bolberg Pedersen, Jesper Riis, Thomas Fryland

Recorded October 8 – 16, 1998, Broadcast House, Copenhagen

Producer: Ole Mathiesen

Engineer: Henrik Lund

Executive-Producer: Henrik Rørdam, Peter H. Larsen

Mixed by Jim McNeely, Niels E. Lund

Design: Lars Møller Nielsen

Photography by Jan Persson


There is indeed some “nice work” on this new release by the Danish Radio Jazz Orchestra, thanks largely to the DRJO’s world–class stature as a working big band and the imposing talents of chief conductor Jim McNeely whose sharp and swinging arrangement of the Gershwin brothers’ “Nice Work If You Can Get It” was Grammy–nominated this year. Also from the Gershwins comes “. . .and Rhythm” (“I Got Rhythm”) which opens with a brief reminder of “Rhapsody in Blue” and includes emphatic solos by every member of the rhythm section, the insertion in mid–stream of snippets from a number of rhythmically strong bop classics, and exuberant hand–clapping by the band in support of drummer Jonas Johansen before Henrik Bolberg Pedersen’s muted trumpet leads to the subdued coda. McNeely wrote and arranged everything else except the placid “Moksha,” which was composed / arranged by tenor saxophonist Tomas Franck. Franck, an articulate post–bop champion, solos with guitarist Anders “Chico” Lindvall and bassist Thomas Oveson on “Moksha,” with Johansen and trombonist Vincent Nilsson on McNeely’s turbulent “Rough Night” and with Pedersen (flugel) on “Nice Work.” Lindvall is heard again on the pensive “Reflection,” Oveson and tenor Uffe Markussen on “Pete’s Feet,” pianist Nikolaj Berntzon and flugel Thomas Fryland on “Syretha’s Gift,” written by McNeely for one of his students “who has a wondrous insight into the spirit and soul of music” — a quality that one may reasonably suggest is shared by McNeely himself who seems to have found an agreeable “home away from home” with the DRJO. NIce work, gentlemen.

Jack Bowers (All About Jazz)