Big band music never really gets old. That is to say that it doesn't have to sound like it's something from the past and ought to stay there. In the hands of an effective composer, arranger and band leader like Mark Buselli, the swinging sound of large horn sections is bound to please.
Buselli, who also plays trumpet, is director of Jazz Studies at Ball State University. Since 1994, he has teamed up with trombonist Brent Wallarab to head the Buselli-Wallarab Jazz Orchestra. Mixing eight standards and three original songs, the orchestra delivers An Old Soul.
"My Shining Hour" is a bright, cheerful song, with Bryson Kern's stick work setting that stage early, but it's the brassy, layered horn work that gives this recording some extra punch. Solos by pianist Luke Gillespie and tenor saxophonist Rob Dixon add to that feeling. The latter stretches out at length, and he is supplemented by some powerful brass to set up the song's final sequence.
Vocalist Kelleen Strutz and a string ensemble join the band for "If You Never Come to Me," a charming bossa nova arrangement with lyrics in both Portuguese and English. Strutz's whispery voice is comparable to that of Gabriela Anders, as she scats along with Buselli's flugelhorn before he solos.
The title song again features Dixon and Gillespie. Gillespie leads during the tranquil opening, backed by soft horns. Throughout, Kern's crisp hi-hat play makes for a nice backdrop. After Dixon's solo, the full horn section takes charge, with the reeds and brass bouncing off each other.
An Old Soul could be a hidden reference to Buselli's revisiting of classic jazz songs. But it's also a tribute to Buselli's deceased golden retriever. Either way, the arrangements are fresh, and while the eight standards are familiar, there isn't a strong sense of déja vu.
Track Listing: My Shining Hour; 135 B. Chiswick; If You Never Come to Me; Angel Eyes; An Old Soul; Chelsea Bridge; Open up Your Heart; If I Should Lose You; Artificial Bebop; Fables of Faubus; When I Fall in Love.
Personnel: Mark Buselli: arranger, conductor, trumpet, flugelhorn; Tom Meyer: alto saxophone, clarinet; Mike Stricklin: alto and tenor saxophones, flute; Rob Dixon: tenor, alto and soprano saxophones; Ned Boyd: baritone saxophone, bass clarinet; Joey Tartell: trumpet, flugelhorn; Jeff Conrad: trumpet, flugelhorn; Derrick Gardner: trumpet, flugelhorn; Mike Hackett: trumpet, flugelhorn; Celeste Holler: horn; Brent Wallarab: trombone; Loy Hetrick: trombone; Jason Miller: trombone; Richard Dole: bass trombone; Luke Gillespie: piano; Sandy Williams: guitar; Jack Helsley: acoustic and electric bass; Bryson Kern: drums; Kelleen Strutz: vocals; Dan Rizner: violin; Davis Brooks: violin; Debbie Rodin: violin; Kara Day-Spurlock: violin; Lisa Brooks: violin; Linda Yu-Picard: violin; Chin Mi Kim: violin; Mary Kothman: violin; Amy Brandfonbrener: viola; Kathy Hershberger: viola; Marjie Hanna: cello; Nancy Smith: cello; Joe Everett: double-bass; Deno Sanders: drums (11); Kevin Kaiser: percussion (11).