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This is the fourteenth recording by one of the best big bands you’ve probably never heard, trombonist Rodger Fox’s world–class ensemble from far–away New Zealand. As on several of those earlier albums, which featured guest appearances by such well–known Jazz artists as John Scofield, Tom Harrell, Gary Grant, Bobby Shew and Bill Reichenbach, Fox employs a “secret weapon” on Ain’t That the Truth in the person of spectacular lead trumpeter Jon Papenbrook from Los Angeles who galvanizes the secton on nine of the fourteen tracks. Papenbrook solos elegantly on Henry Mancini’s “Moment to Moment” and Luis Bonfa’s “Day in the Life of a Fool” and appends screaming codas on two versions (studio and live) of Horace Silver’s Jazz standard, “Opus de Funk.” Fox is another formidable soloist, as he shows on the first five selections and on Bill Armstrong’s funky “Lullaby of Bigfoot.” The first nine tracks were recorded at a studio in Auckland, the last five in concert at The King’s Arms in Auckland. The programming, with one exception, is exemplary, as Fox leads off with two persuasive compositions by American expatriate and saxophonist Gordon Brisker, “Ain’t That the Truth” and “Feel So Sad,” following them with trombonist Paul McKee’s lovely arrangement of “Beautiful Love,” Silver’s memorable “Opus de Funk” and pianist Bill Cunliffe’s rock–flavored ”Napier.” The exception we referred to are the ballads “Moment to Moment” and “Day in the Life of a Fool,” which could easily have been separated by Matt Harris’s more animated “Cappucino Freeway.” But that’s a minor quibble indeed among such an abundance of musical riches. There’s a more serious problem (on our copy, at least) with the tracks recorded in concert, as each one includes a large number of split–second interruptions that appear to have arisen from electrical flaws during the recording process. Perhaps these have since been noticed and corrected, as we received an early copy of the CD from Rodger himself, but prospective listeners should be aware that they may indeed be present, as they are on the disc we have in hand, and that they clearly inhibit one's enjoyment of an otherwise admirable concert. The nine studio tracks are well-recorded, and the band is marvelous throughout, with impressive solos not only by Fox and Papenbrook but also by alto saxophonist Godfrey de Grut, tenors Lewis McCallum and Cameron Allen, trumpeter Mike Booth, guitarist Neil Watson and drummer Grahame Cope. Even without the impaired in-concert selections (three of which were recorded in the studio as well), Ain't That the Truth is a superb big-band album and easily recommended.
Contact:Rodger Fox and Associates, P.O. Box 78–094, Grey Lynn, Auckland, New Zealand. Phone +64 9 376 2552; e–mail firstname.lastname@example.org (Rodger Fox’s CDs are available in th U.S. through Cadence / North Country, Pender Music and Tap Music and at his web site, www.trombone.co.nz)
Track Listing: Ain
Personnel: Rodger Fox, leader, trombone; Jon Papenbrook, Mike Booth, Jo Spiers, Scott Whineray, Andrew Daley, trumpets; Mark Spiers, Mike Young, Brian Biddick, Kurt Gibson, trombones; Godfrey de Grut, alto, soprano sax; Angus Ramsey, alto sax; Lewis McCallum, Cameron Allen, tenor sax; Andrew Baker, baritone sax; Brian Henderson, keyboards; Neil Watson, guitar; Alex Griffith, bass; Grahame Cope, drums.