In high school, Tyler Gilmore had widely varied tastes. The burgeoning composer was into acts like the Smashing Pumpkins and Aphex Twin, but he was equally fixated on transcribing Miles Davis solos to play on his trumpet. After college, Gilmore attended a series of summer workshops taught by Maria Schneider at the Henry Mancini Institute in Los Angeles. By then, he knew he wanted to form a band that reflected all of his disparate influences. He really didn't have anyone to play with at the time, however, so he turned to Schneider, one of the jazz world's most celebrated orchestra composers and arrangers, for some advice.
"I want to write music," he told her during a lesson. "I live in Denver. I'm not in school anymore, so I don't have anybody to play it. Where should I go? What should I do? And she was just, like, 'Start a band.'"
As soon as he returned to Denver, Gilmore set about doing just that. He figured that it would be tough to find other members, but as soon as he started making calls to musicians, mostly students, and began presenting his idea of putting together a modern composer orchestra in Denver, some of the top talent in town — players like Dave Devine, Greg Harris, Mark Simon and Paul Romaine — expressed an interest, and the Ninth & Lincoln Orchestra was born. After about a year and a half of playing monthly gigs at Dazzle, where Gilmore handles the booking duties, the seventeen-member Orchestra was ready to record. The tricky part was deciding what pieces to put on an album.
"With each month, it's been sort of a different thing," Gilmore explains. "Each time, we're seeing what's working and what's cool. And then, obviously, most of it has to do with me being the bandleader, like my choices as far as what I like, what's happening and whatnot. So it's sort of a distillation of what's gone on each month in the year and a half before it was recorded."
The results can be heard on Ninth & Lincoln's self-titled debut. On the album, which also happens to be the inaugural release from the freshly minted Dazzle Records imprint, Gilmore takes cues from John Hollenbeck, one of his primary influences, and tends to shy away from dedicated melodies in favor of focusing more on the rhythm section. Elsewhere, the disc features Wil Swindler's arrangement of Björk's "Aeroplane," which the group played last year at Dazzle during a night centered around the Icelandic diva's enigmatic music. The selection itself is a great example of Gilmore's desire to incorporate his broader sensibilities into a jazz framework.
"We're trying to get a lot of sounds that big bands aren't supposed to get, necessarily, or don't usually get," Gilmore points out. "It's been a fun, very social process having the other guys in the band throw in ideas and make it this collective thing, where it's not 100 percent me. It's a lot of their things coming into it."