"...Israels’ charts are the heart of his band’s unique personality. It is definitely not a band that clubs you into submission. It is mellow, subtle, highly melodic, with lines that move in wondrous ways.
This is not to say that the band does not swing or that it does not reach peaks that excite the audience. Its long suit, however, is the coloration and emotional depth it achieves through the voicings and judicious use of solo space.. Israels has fashioned an orchestra that flows in beautiful channels, and beauty is something jazz can use these days.
This is a band to check out. The originals are original, the standards are freshly reworked, and they are played with passion and understanding. The pulse, never bombastic, moves the listener as surely as it moves the band. Israels deserves a lot of credit, but more importantly, the opportunity to be widely heard.”
-Ira Gitler, Down Beat
“The octet is composed of some of the city’s most accomplished players. Cryptically, Israels told the packed house about the challenge of moving Evans’ music to an ensemble setting: “One man; lots of fingers. Eight men; many more fingers, many brains.”
Translating the music from Evans’ fingers through eighty fingers and eight brains requires more than technical ability in playing and writing, although it requires plenty of that. It demands an understanding of and feeling for the underlying impulses and emotions in the music. Last night was one of those occasions on which an audience’s concentration and approval is palpable well beyond its applause. We were feeling what the musicians felt in the profundity, beauty and joy of Evans’ music. After a demanding baritone-tenor-alto sax soli recreating Evans’ solo on “Show Type Tune” tailed off into a quiet conclusion by piano and cymbals, there was a collective intake of breath before the applause began. Earlier in the piece, trombonist John Moak executed the melody of the tune’s bridge section with exuberance so pronounced, so right, that it lit the room with smiles. “Beautiful Love,” “Elsa,” “Waltz For Debby,” “Israel” and “My Foolish Heart” were among the pieces in which Israels translated the rhythmic and harmonic complexities in Evans piano solo into intricately crafted ensembles for five horns. Israels’ daughter Jessica sang “Waltz For Debby” and his wife Margot Hanson “My Foolish Heart,” in arrangements made so that although the lyrics were perfectly clear, their voices were integrated into the ensemble sound, to great effect.
Emphasis may be on arrangements based on Evans solos, but Chuck Israels’ Jazz Orchestra is also a soloists’ band. There were impressive solos by all members. They are Chuck Israels, leader, arranger, bass; Dan Gaynor, piano; Todd Strait, drums; Robert Crowell, baritone sax and bass clarinet; David Evans, tenor sax and clarinet; John Nastos, alto sax and flute; Paul Mazzio, trumpet and flugelhorn; John Moak, trombone. This band is worthy of being on a festival main stage.”
-Doug Ramsey, artsJournalBlogs