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Jazziz Magazine, August 1999

"The impressive playing (tenor saxophonist Seamus Blake and pianist Uri Caine are also standouts) and the ambitious composing and arranging are good signs for Naxos' new jazz imprint and are evidence that big-band jazz is alive and kicking."


"Purple" may be brimming with imaginative solos from the likes of organist John Medeski, pianist Uri Caine, saxist Donny McCaslin, and clarinetist Doug Yates, but the album's considerable big-picture beauty comes down to the tasty composing and arranging skills of bandleader Ken Schaphorst. He's crafted an album of energy and lyricism, exemplified by the opening "Uprising" - in which McCaslin's grand solos are set off by the fresh textures and sprung rhythms of the rest of the band. "With You, Then Without" is another standout,as Yates traces a blue line through Schaphorst's lovely chart. And the title track may be the best, with Caine's pearly flights integral to the gorgeous ebb and flow of the whole."

Bill Kohlhaase
Los Angeles Times

"Boston-product, Wisconsin-based composer-bandleader Schaphorst has a sense of orchestral color and rhythm unique in the world of big bands. The nine tunes here are given electric immediacy and a bit of grind thanks to Brad Shepik's guitar and the Hammond organ of John Medeski (Medeski Martin & Wood), sounds that contrast well with warm blends of clarinet, trombone and fluegelhorn. Tunes move easily between moods and tempos, and Schaphorst's subtle themes provide framing for improvisational sweeps. Medeski, saxophonists Donny McCasln and Seamus Blake, pianist Uri Caine and trombonist Josh Roseman all make inspired statements. With "Purple," Schaphorst establishes himself as an important writer out of the George Russell-Gil Evans tradition."

Ed Hazell
The Boston Phoenix

"Composer Ken Schaphorst writes beautiful melodies, to be sure, but it's what he does with them that makes him a composer and not just a tunesmith. He subjects his themes to reharmonizations, colorful orchestrations, and a variety of different rhythmic treatments to create pieces that are wide-ranging yet unified.

The charts on Purple, his fourth album, range from twisting post-bop numbers like "Bounce" and "Blues Almighty" to uncategorizable sound pieces like "Bats" to the Afro-Caribbean-flavored "My Island." His writing leaves plenty of room for soloists, and as a consequence he always attracts a strong cast to play his music. This album features an extended workout for tenor-saxophonist Donny McCaslin on "Uprising," an outrageous cubist soul-blues rave-up from organist John Medeski on "Blues Almighty," and a lyrical statement from pianist Uri Caine on the title track. Schaphorst's charts preserve the best of the past while looking fearlessly ahead to the future.

Ken Rattenbury
Crescendo & Jazz Music

"This disc brings together 19 musicians of accomplished, practical talents into a very precise, polished band performing in what I call a today-style swing group. Complex ensembles, executed with consummately nonchalant ease, some rumbustious adlibbing, with a swinging rhythm section steaming the production along."

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