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SWR Big Band: A Fresh Taste of Thad Jones and Frank Foster (2006)

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SWR Big Band: A Fresh Taste of Thad Jones and Frank Foster How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

None of the music on Fresh Taste is actually fresh, having been recorded in 1994-96 when the SWR Big Band was still the SDR, and previously issued on CD—but that doesn't mean it need be any less rewarding to anyone who hasn't yet heard it. To the contrary, those whose antennae are attuned to the straight-ahead grooves espoused by Thad Jones, Frank Foster and the Count Basie Orchestra should find almost everything here immensely invigorating and agreeable.

While he commands top billing, Jones wrote only four of the album's eleven selections, "Counter Block, "Mean What You Say," "Basic-Ally Yours and "The Biddle-De-Bop-Samba. The others are by Foster, and six of them were included on the album A Fresh Taste of the Blues (IRS, 1996), released a decade ago. Jones, who died in 1986, was a member of the Basie trumpet section from 1954-63 and co-led the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra (now the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra) from 1966-78. He is remembered as a remarkable composer who penned such memorable Jazz standards as "A Child Is Born, "Don't Git Sassy, "Fingers, "Tip Toe, "Little Pixie, "Groove Merchant, "Big Dipper, "Greetings and Salutations, "Kids Are Pretty People and "Mean What You Say, the last included on this album.

Foster's credentials are comparably impressive. The tenor saxophonist joined Basie's orchestra in 1953, remained until 1964, and led the orchestra from 1986-95 (the Count having passed away in 1984). Like Jones a first-rate composer, Foster wrote a number of Basie's most crowd-pleasing charts including "Blues Backstage, "Down for the Count, "Blues in Hoss' Flat and, most notably, "Shiny Stockings. Though sidelined by a stroke in recent years, Foster was still playing when A Fresh Taste was recorded, and he solos strongly on "Counter Block, "Mean What You Say, "Winners (on soprano sax), "Love Handles, "Lady in Lace and (again on soprano) "A Fresh Taste of the Blues.

It always helps, of course, to have a world-class band in one's corner, and that is precisely what the SWR is. The ensemble handles Jones and Foster's Basie-esque charts with ease, while the soloists are consistently persuasive, from trumpeters Karl Farrent and (American expat) Don Rader to soprano Klaus Graf, alto Bernd Rabe, tenors Andi Maile and Peter Weniger, trombonists Ian Cumming and Ludwig Nuss, pianist Klaus Wagenleiter, guitarist Klaus-Peter Schöpfer, bassist Henning Sieverts and drummers Jörg Gebhardt and Keith Copeland.

Not exactly a Fresh Taste, but by no means a stale one either. Indeed, a splendid album that is warmly recommended to the many fans of Jones/Foster/Basie.

Track Listing: Counter Block; Mean What You Say; Ode to Joe Newman; Winners; Love Handles; Basic-ally Yours; Victorious Blues; Now That Shes Away; The Biddle-De-Bop Samba; Lady in Lace; A Fresh Taste of the Blues (66:51).

Personnel: (Tracks 1,2,6,8,9) Frank Foster: leader, tenor, soprano sax; Thomas Vogel, Don Rader, Karl Farrent, Rudi Reindl, Lubomir Rezanina: trumpet, flugelhorn; Bernd Rabe, Klaus Graf, Peter Weniger, Andi Maile, Rainer Heute: reeds; Ernst Hutter, Ludwig Nuss, Ian Cumming, Georg Maus: trombone; Jrgen Wirth: tuba; Klaus Wagenleiter: piano, electric piano; Klaus-Peter Schpfer: guitar; Henning Sieverts: bass; Jrg Gebhardt: drums. (3-5,7,10,11) Axel Khn: sax, replaces Graf; Marc Godfroid: trombone, replaces Hutter; Wirth: tuba, out; Keith Copeland: drums, replaces Gebhardt.

Record Label: Hänssler Classic

Style: Big Band


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