Windward Bound is an elegant album of program music written for a 19-piece jazz orchestra. Thematically, it is based on multi-instrumentalist/composer Dennis Kwok’s teenage years spent sailing on Lake Ontario and its six movements (The Calling; Ready, Aye, Ready; A Flat Boat is a Fast Boat; The Tempest; Elegy and Red, Right, Returning) chronicle different elements of journeys over water. Kwok was only 22 years old when he wrote the music and assembled the excellent group of players, and one can feel his excitement about combining two of his consuming interests in this project.
The first two sections are quite evocative: The Calling begins with the musicians blowing through their wind instruments behind a beautiful oboe solo which conjures the idyllic stasis of the beach. Ready, Aye, Ready opens with a faster tempo and a repeated piano riff, then flute and bass enter and it builds into the full band which generates the excitement of setting out to sea (or lake) on an adventure.
The album notes state the group is comprised of “musicians under 35 from the southern Ontario region” and that the music is “dedicated to preserving the big band tradition while staying relevant to our generation.” This is a well-produced album with solid musicianship that fully realizes its engaging premise.