Down A Rabbit Hole – Ayn Inserto Jazz Orchestra

Down A Rabbit Hole – Ayn Inserto Jazz Orchestra

Label: Summit Records

Release date: Sept. 2018

Catalog number: 732


01 Three and Me
comp: Ayn Inserto
02 BJ's Tune
comp: Sean Jones
03 Mister and Dudley
comp: Ayn Inserto
04 Down A Rabbit Hole
comp: Ayn Inserto
05 Part I: Ze Teach
comp: Ayn Inserto
06 Part II: And Me
comp: Ayn Inserto
07 I'll Be There
comp: Berry Gordy, Hal Davis, Bob West, Will Htuch

“…she’s Maria Schneider on steroids…”  -Harvey Siders, Jazz Times/ Clairvoyance  –  Ayn Inserto’s DOWN A RABBIT HOLE exhibits her continued exploration and adventures for the modern big band. Featuring jazz greats John Fedchock, Sean Jones, and George Garzone, Ayn’s new album tells a new story with each carefully composed piece. Her compositional design allows the genuine expression of the soloists to shine, while maintaining the style and sound of this large ensemble that is uniquely Ayn’s. Ayn’s exceptional ability to collaborate is illustrated in her thoughtful arrangements. In her compositions, her visionary melodic and harmonic concepts are executed with precision by her long-established band that loves and understands her music. The energy, creativity, and craft of Ayn’s DOWN A RABBIT HOLE is simply magical and inspiring.

Ayn Inserto, conductor/composer/arranger

Guests: John Fedchock, trombone; George Garzone, tenor sax; Sean Jones, trumpet

Allan Chase, soprano/alto sax; Rick Stone, alto sax/flute/clarinet; Kelly Roberge, tenor sax/clarinet; Mark Zaleski, tenor sax/clarinet; Kathy Olson, bari sax/bass clarinet

Trumpets: Jeff Claassen, Bijon Watson, Dan Rosenthal, Matthew Small

Trombones: Randy Pingrey, Chris Gagne, Garo Saraydarian; Bass Trombone: Jennifer Wharton

Eric Hofbauer, guitar; Jason Yeager, piano; Sean Farias, bass; Austin McMahon, drums

Mike Tomasiak, tenor sax on track 5; Jerry Sabatini, trumpet, on track 5; Jamie Kember, bass trombone, on track 5.



Down a Rabbit Hole (Summit – 732) conjures up the kind of madcap  adventures experienced by Alice in her trip to Wonderland.  The AYN INSERTO JAZZ ORCHESTRA takes the listener into the world of musical imagination that is possessed by the leader of this impressive contemporary big band.  Inserto employs 17 musicians to bring her concepts to life, and they are splendid players indeed.  To augment the band, Inserto has three masters of their instruments, trumpeter Sean Jones, trombonist John Fedchock and tenor saxophonist George Garzone as featured soloists.  There are seven selections, each of which is distinctive, although two pieces, “Ze Teach” and “And Me” comprise a two part suite inspired by her studies with Bob Brookmeyer and her evolution as a first-rate composer/arranger on her own.  This is listening music that reveals new joys each time it is revisited.
-Jersey Jazz
“Ayn Inserto conducts, arranges and composes the material for his Jazz Orchestra, which features all star guests John Fedchock/tb, George Garzone/ts and Sean Jones/tp for some hip soloing.

All three take turns on the fun and Monkish “Three and Me” that has the sections bouncing back and forth, while Jones is velvety on “BJ’s Tune.” Austin McMahon’s drums and high hat lead the charge for Garzone’s thick sax on the title track and coaxes his cymbals around the relaxed strut of “Mister and Dudley” for Fedchock. The ringer here is an elegiac take of the Michael Jackson hit “I’ll Be There” that features a gorgeous intro by pianist Jason Yeager. This is an album filled with rich and toe tapping ideas.”

-George W. Harris,

“Back with their first new record in a decade, this crew’s left leaning tendencies make the title an apt choice. Without going for creativity for the sake of creativity, they push the envelope lightly but firmly giving your ears a big band breath of fresh air. Guest stars bring their chops and add to the proceedings nicely. A solid set for those looking for something out of the ordinary that respects their ears.”

-Chris Spector, MIDWEST RECORD

A couple of years ago I urged readers to look into the talents of AYN INSERTO, her previous work, Home Away From Home, was done with an Italian workshop orchestra. Her current work [1/3/17] is back with her Jazz Orchestra. DOWN A RABBIT HOLE [Summit Records dcd732] brings together a number of players found on her 2008 recording Muse on Creative Nation Records. As with all her domestic recordings, George Garzone is a featured player along with soloists John Fedchock [tbn], Sean Jones [tpt], Randy Pingrey [tbn], Allan Chase [ss] and Rick Stone [as]. As with her previous works she voices her work on a series of platforms on which the soloists play. Of the 7 compositions [51:13], I find the title tune most attractive with its shifts and turns and Austin McMahon’s drums booting it along. Once again, Inserto produces a mindful and well-voiced work. One tune and the only non-original, “I’ll Be There”, was recorded 2/1/15, with Inserto’s arrangement, I found it of the least interest.
-Robert D. Rusch, Cadence Magazine
Ayn Inserto is a breathtakingly gifted composer and big-band arranger, and her taste for big and luscious arrangements with a hard, crunchy center is beautifully on display with this album. Inserto established this group in 2001 and has since worked hard to cultivate a feeling of connection and intimacy within it, the fruits of which are clear: they play like a single organism, the brass blending creamily and the rhythm section pulsing as if it shares a heart. She draws deeply on jazz traditions (listen to the Ellingtonian intro to “Mister and Dudley”) but expands on them both subtly and assertively, and on the aptly-titled “Rabbit Hole” she creates a musical cyclone of phased repetitions and complex rhythms that are positively thrilling. No library with a jazz collection should pass this one up.
“Ayn Inserto is a Boston-based pianist, conductor, composer and educator with an impeccable resumé. A New England Conservatory alumnus and one of Bob Brookmeyer’s protegées, she has collected an impressive series of awards and conducted extensively both in the U.S. and abroad. But more than her resumé is the music she has recorded over the last decade, which speaks highly of her accomplishments. Down A Rabbit Hole is her fourth recording, which, in addition to her orchestra, features three guests: trombonist John Fedchock, saxophonist George Garzone and trumpeter Sean Jones.

The album is a tour de force as individual pieces showcase different atmospheres, tempos and individual soloists. Inserto has developed an original style among the group of young jazz arrangers and composers including Maria Schneider, Darcy James Argue and, more recently, Michael Leonhart. Reflecting Brookmeyer’s influence, but also that of Jim McNeely, Inserto’s arrangements tend to be rather sophisticated, leveraging the orchestra as her proper instrument. That said, like many of her peers, Inserto also has the capacity to tailor each composition to the orchestra’s individual voices. This is evident right from the opening piece “Three and Me”, featuring contributions by the three guests.

The orchestra is sharp and yet flexible in following Inserto’s direction through compositions that require utmost discipline as they evolve constantly in narrative fashion. The various sections interact, adding to and countering each other, while providing exquisite support to the soloists. “BJ’s Tune” is a case in point, with a dreamy theme that develops section by section and eventually leads to Jones’ ascending solo. Of note here, as in all the other pieces, are Sean Farias’ understated yet solid bass and Austin McMahon’s crisp drumming. “Mister and Dudley” is a pleasantly bouncing swinger executed with freshness and featuring a dialogue between Fedchock and the orchestra. The title track opens with a dramatic and insistent pulse sustaining spare orchestral riffs. As sections are added, the multilayered structure of the piece eventually emerges and then disappears, leaving a forceful Garzone and the rhythm section in suspenseful exploration.

The “Ze Teach And Me” mini-suite is a dedication to Inserto’s special relation with Brookmeyer. The first part is a swinging affair with Randy Pingrey’s trombone portraying the dedicatee himself whereas the second part is about Inserto and features Allan Chase and Rick Stone’s saxophones battling one other on top of the piece’s somewhat unpredictable development. “I’ll Be There” is a poignant take of Michael Jackson’s song, introduced by Jason Yeager’s excellent piano. The overall result is a brilliant and sophisticated recording, full of very creative compositions, beautifully arranged and enriched by excellent solos.”

-New York City Jazz Record by Marco Cangiano



The Singapore-born Inserto has been on the local scene first as student, then teacher and, for nearly 20 years, writer, arranger, and bandleader for this big band. The star guests are trumpeter Sean Jones, saxophonist George Garzone, and trombonist John Fedchock, but the band is chock full of ringers from the local scene. Aficionados will smile at Inserto’s paraphrase of her mentor Bob Brookmeyer’s classic “Venus de Milo” (“Ze Teach”). The Fringe’s Garzone rides the gravitational pull of the morphing vamps in the title cut. And everywhere there are varied grooves, sunburst harmonies, crafty layered voicings, all unfolding with a master storyteller’s narrative logic.

-from Jon Garelick’s Boston Globe Best Jazz Albums of 2018