I've yet to clap eyes on the Kurtis Chance Big Band Orchestra, but on the evidence of this new collection of 15 construction kits (comprising around 7GB of audio), there's no doubt in my mind that they're an absolute riot! It's rare to hear so much fun being had on a sample collection, and this big band ensemble are clearly breaking a serious sweat to entertain us, producing a series of fantastic, swaggering performances. I've nothing but praise for the stylish arrangements too, which incorporate lots of great dynamic changes and variations that drive the track forward and keep you coming back for more. The musical and intelligent drumming is also commendable, especially when twinned with such muscular, funky bass parts.
Styles range all the way from classic '40s swing, through blues (John Belushi would be proud!) to funk, with the odd Latin and Dixieland diversion along the way. The tempos are medium to uptempo, nominally 91‑193 bpm for the Acidized WAV and Apple Loops formats, but there is, of course, some flexibility, given the inclusion of REX2‑format versions. Each kit provides around 10 interchangeable song sections, each of which is split into a series of loop layers isolating the drums, bass, guitar, piano, saxes, trumpets, trombones, and any other parts, so that you have separate control over them. The brass are presented dry in mixed sections, typically, although a strong selection of solos is provided too. Unusually for a construction‑kit library, multitrack drum parts (kick, snare, hi‑hat, overheads and toms) for all the loops are included, although only in WAV format, which means a minor headache if you need to beat‑match them. Indeed, coupled with locked‑in harmonies and arrangement details, this means that Big Bad Horns clearly isn't the kind of library you want to use after you've already started a production; it's much better to work with it right from the start of your creative process.
Sonically, however, it's a bit of a mixed bag. Although the majority of the mixed drum loops are pretty serviceable, some sound rather more lo‑fi than I'd wish, and the toms feel rather over‑balanced on a number of occasions. The multitracks fare similarly: there's a good measure of decent capture, but I did find myself sucking my teeth at trashy hi‑hats, sqwanky snares, and muffled overheads on more than one occasion. Likewise, although the electric bass parts have much to recommend them in terms of solid low end and effortless mid‑range cut‑through (a well‑judged instrument tone there), they are not without blemishes, such as obtrusive background buzz or the odd unattractive, booming unevenness. Uncontrolled resonances are even more of a concern with the less frequent upright bass parts, and here the tone is also not very well suited to purpose, easily becoming submerged in the mix. Fortunately, the guitar and piano sounds are respectable and work well in the arrangement, while the brass — the stars of the show, after all — are shown off to pretty good advantage, which gives you more chance of sweeping any other sonic shortcomings under the carpet.
Although it's a bit disappointing to encounter engineering issues, given the higher‑than‑normal pricing here, there's so much energy and enthusiasm in these performances that I think they offer reasonable value for money, nonetheless, if you need raw materials for building this kind of music from scratch. Mike Senior