Best-known for founding the New York Nonet, Manhattan resident Jim Cifelli is a post-bop/hard bop trumpeter and flügelhornist who has considerable skills as an arranger, composer, bandleader, and producer. Cifelli's New York Nonet is what veteran hard bop alto saxophonist Phil Woods would describe as a "little big band"; in other words, it is a medium-sized unit - not a full-fledged orchestra or a true big band, but larger than the quartets and quintets that typically dominate straight-ahead bop and post-bop. As an arranger, Cifelli has cited Oliver Nelson, Gil Evans, and Thad Jones as major influences, and his work also recalls Art Blakey's hard-swinging Jazz Messengers (which usually had five or six members but had a way of sounding like a larger band). Cifelli didn't actually grow up in any of New York City's five boroughs; he was born On May 11, 1961 in Yorktown Heights, NY, and grew up in that suburban area, which is about 35 miles north of the Big Apple.
After marrying his wife Barbara Cifelli (who now plays various reeds with the New York Nonet), he moved to Manhattan in 1989. In the early to mid-‘90s, Cifelli co-led the Uptown Jazz Orchestra, a New York big band. But after that gig ended, he decided that he wanted to write and arrange for a medium-sized unit and sought the advance of Manny Albam, his composition teacher at the time. Albam was very encouraging and spoke in detail about how much he enjoyed writing for medium-sized groups. So in 1996, Cifelli formed the New York Nonet, whose members have included trombonist Pete McGuinness, trumpeter/flügelhornist Andy Gravish, tenor saxman Joel Frahm, alto and soprano saxman Cliff Lyons, guitarist Pete McCann, and drummer Tim Horner, among others. Cifelli's wife Barbara has played several different wind instruments with his nine-piece band, including baritone sax, bass clarinet, and flute.
Although Cifelli takes some trumpet and flügelhorn solos, no one can accuse him of hogging the spotlight as a soloist; if anything, Cifelli gives the other bandmembers more solo space than he gives himself. Arguably, Cifelli approaches the trumpet and flügelhorn the way Duke Ellington approached his piano -- like Ellington, he's a talented soloist but seems to see himself in more of an arranger, composer, bandleader role than a soloist/improviser role.
In early 1998, Cifelli's released Bullet Trane (the first album with his New York Nonet) on his own label, Short Notice Music. The second Cifelli/New York Nonet album, So You Say, was recorded in 1998 and subsequently released by A-Records (a subsidiary of the Netherlands-based Challenge label). Tunnel Vision, Cifelli's third New York Nonet album, was recorded for Short Notice and released in February 2003, Groove Vision was released in 2005.
Jim Cifelli - trumpet, flugelhorn, arranger, producer, liner notes
Barbara Cifelli - flute, baritone sax, clarinetbass
Cliff Lyons - alto and soprano sax
Joel Frahm - tenor sax
Andy Gravish - trumpet, flugelhorn
Pete McGuinness - trombone
Pete McCann - guitar
Mary Ann McSweeney - acoustic and electric bass
Tim Horner - drums
01. Bullet Trane 5:32
02. Dolphin Dance 7:17
03. It Could Happen To You 4:37
04. Focal Point 4:04
05. Time Will Tell 5:27
06. Ladybird 5:34
07. Resurgence 5:45
08. Silent Eyes 3:01
09. In Your Own Sweet Way 6:40
10. Far And Near 8:06