“…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
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, JazzWeekly.com
-Chris Spector, MIDWEST RECORD
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