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Album Review


Jazz Pops/Pop Swings  (2023)


By Dave Lisik | Published June 2023


1. Shining Star (9:06)

2. Another Vision (8:21)

3. Greedy (3:36)

4. So Wrong (4:48)

5. Elis (7:58)

6. Fast Love (5:44)

7. Where is the Love? (3:52)

8. Sco (7:42)

9. Triumph (7:39)

10. Tapestry (3:24)

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The JM Jazz World Orchestra has become one the most outstanding musical opportunities for young and developing jazz musicians. Their debut recording, Jazz Pops/Pop Swings documents the experience of the 2019 incarnation of the band. The organization behind the ensemble, JM (Jeunesses Musicales) International, was founded in 1945 with the stated goal of “uniting the world’s youth through music in the wake of the Second World War.” JM has a long and impressive history providing musical opportunities with a strong social conscience. 


The Jazz World Orchestra, launched in 2012, has been directed for the majority of its existence by Luis Bonilla. Formerly a trombonist with a multi-decade tenure in the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra in New York City (formerly the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra), Bonilla is the current professor of Jazz trombone at the KUG (University of Music and Performing Arts) Jazz school in Graz, Austria. Bonilla is also a member of the Vine Street horns for recent tours of pop music legend, Phil Collins and has a long list of world-class collaborators.


The orchestra auditions members up to the age of 26 from around the globe and truly lives up to its name as a “world” orchestra. On this album’s edition of the orchestra, I count representation of 17 nations among the young musicians: Brazil, New Zealand, Israel, Germany, Scotland, Finland, Austria, United States, Spain, Czech Republic, Croatia, North Macedonia, Costa Rica, Hungary, Lithuania, Slovenia, and Italy. 


Based on the quality of performances documented here, the clear goal of broad global representation hasn’t been at the sacrifice of talent. The album opens with a challenging Latin chart, “Shining Star,” a Bonilla original, arranged by Jose Arellano. Immediately we recognize the level of musicality this group of young musicians is going to be capable of demonstrating after the relatively short run of rehearsals and tour performances afforded them. Having watched Bonilla, on several occasions over 20 years, work as clinician, guest soloist, and recording artist in a number of musical settings, I can picture with some clarity the energetic direction he undoubtedly gave these musicians in rehearsals. The band has responded with a high level of musical maturity, dynamic contrast, timbral quality and nuance, and calm execution of complex rhythms, as they expertly deal with one musical obstacle after another. 


“Another Vision” is the second original by Bonilla, this time arranged by Emiliano Sampaio a recent doctoral graduate and trombone student of Bonilla’s in Graz. 


Another Bonllia original is “Elis,” named after Luis’s daughter, and arranged by George Stone. The opening of the chart has more than a few textural similarities to Jerry Dodgion’s chart “Butter” recorded by the Mel Lewis Orchestra, before it veers off in different directions. The band’s ability to play beautiful unisons and blend and balance across the horn sections is a highlight but isn’t limited to this cut.


Carole King’s “Tapestry” displays Bonilla’s intelligence in programming for a touring band, giving vocalist Patricija Skof the opportunity to share her lovely voice with, what I assume was, a captivated and appreciative audience for every show. As the album title suggests, there’s a theme making the conclusion of arrangements of popular music throughout. “Fastlove” is an arrangement of a mid-1990s chart-topping tune by George Michael and on “Where is the Love?” trumpeter Joan Mar Sauqué Vila and tenor player Ori Jacobson both have short but elegant and stylistically-appropriate solos. 


“Triumph,” the final Bonilla original, arranged by John Yao, is a harmonically-rich, contrapuntally-satisfying chart alternating between Latin and swing grooves. Ori Jacobson plays another of his numerous impressive solos and vibraphonist Vid Jamnic does some capable navigating of an interesting ostinato before being replaced by unison trumpets.


Grammy Award-winning recording engineer and longtime friend and collaborator of Bonilla, Ed Reed contributes his usual stellar work to this recording, capturing the sound of the band, handling the post-production and even supplying the vocal arrangements. The arrangement of the sounds of the horn sections is something that Reed handles beautifully.


In the bygone days of the touring big bands of Buddy Rich, Woody Herman, Maynard Ferguson, and Stan Kenton, some of these young players would undoubtedly have been recruited into the top bands of those eras. With so many fewer similar opportunities today, seeing a clear pathway to success for jazz musicians has become more difficult. JM International’s infrastructure and Luis Bonilla’s musical guidance are providing a 21st century version of quality ensemble experience for developing artists.



Saxophones: Lucas Figueiredo Santana, Frank Talbot, Ori Jacobson, Matthew Carmichael, Anna Gollien

Trumpets: Benny Troschel, Pilvi Kokkonen, Miles Lujan, Joan Mar Saque Vila

Trombones: Richard Sandra, Joan Codina Cuso, Matteo Bassini, Nicola Ristevski

Guitar: Mindaugas Stumbras; Piano: Pablo Campos; Bass: Tuomas Talvi; Drums: Specs Szendrody

Vibraphone: Vid Jamnik; Percussion: Manfredi Caputo; Voices: Patricia Skiff, Valdemar Kusan

Director: Luis Bonilla


Engineering/Mixing: Ed Reed

Mastering: Ed Reed

Produced by: Luis Bonilla

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