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John La Barbera Big Band: Caravan (2014)

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John La Barbera Big Band: Caravan How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Summoning Juan Tizol
Juan Tizol
Juan Tizol
1900 - 1984
trombone
's travel-worn "Caravan" to raise the curtain on a big-band album poses a challenge for any arranger, one that John La Barbera
John La Barbera
John La Barbera
b.1945
composer/conductor
easily brushes aside on the third recording as leader of his own ensemble. And while "Caravan" dazzles in La Barbera's capable hands, it is merely the opening salvo in a session that smolders from end to end, clearly rivaling and and some ways even trumping his Grammy Award-nominated debut album, On the Wild Side.

One after another, La Barbera's well-framed charts tantalize the ears and quicken the heart while bringing out the very best his all-star band has to offer. After "Caravan," they comprise engaging themes by Kenny Barron
Kenny Barron
Kenny Barron
b.1943
piano
, McCoy Tyner
McCoy Tyner
McCoy Tyner
b.1938
piano
, John Goldsby
John Goldsby
John Goldsby
b.1958
bass
, Jao Bosco, Wayne Henderson
Wayne Henderson
Wayne Henderson
1939 - 2014
trombone
and three by the leader himself. La Barbera's "Roman Notes" was written for saxophonist, friend and mentor Joe Romano
Joe Romano
b.1932
, "Accordin' to Gordon" for trumpeter Joe Gordon
Joe Gordon
b.1928
, "Trinacria" for Sicily, the La Barberas' ancestral home. Each one is a gem, as are La Barbera's other charts; there's not a lemon in the larder. In fact, it would not be implausible for one or more of them to be considered as Grammy nominees for Best Big Band Arrangement.

That is especially true of Barron's "Voyage," which scampers merrily along thanks to La Barbera's assertive chart and sharp solos by trumpeter Clay Jenkins
Clay Jenkins
Clay Jenkins
b.1964
trumpet
and yet another La Barbera, tenor saxophonist Pat, who commandeer center stage again on the buoyant "Gordon." Alto saxophonist Brian Scanlon is showcased on "Roman Notes," bassist Tom Warrington and alto Kim Richmond
Kim Richmond
Kim Richmond

saxophone
on Goldsby's "Forgotten But Not." Yet a third La Barbera, drummer Joe, is out front with brother Pat on "Trinacria" (another name for the island of Sicily). "Caravan" is a sturdy vehicle for trombonists Ryan Dragon and Derick Hughes, while pianist Bill Cunliffe
Bill Cunliffe
Bill Cunliffe
b.1956
piano
shares center stage with Pat La Barbera
Pat La Barbera
Pat La Barbera
b.1944
saxophone
(soprano and tenor) on Tyner's "Atlantis" and (on electric piano) with Scanlon, Joe LaBarbera
Joe LaBarbera
Joe LaBarbera
b.1948
drums
and percussionist Aaron Serfaty on Bosco's Latin charmer, "Incompatible." The session closes with Henderson's high-spirited "Young Rabbits," the long-ears in this case comprising Hughes, Dragon, Joe La Barbera and tenor Rob Lockart
Rob Lockart
Rob Lockart

saxophone
.

Beyond the admirable charts, this is a band that was carefully assembled to breathe life into La Barbera's handsome blueprint, which it does with sagacity and style, from lead trumpeter Wayne Bergeron
Wayne Bergeron
Wayne Bergeron

trumpet
to the hermetic brass and reeds and formidable rhythm section (Cunliffe, Warrington, Serfaty and the indomitable Joe La Barbera who is impressive in any framework). A strong candidate for big-band album of the year.


Track Listing: Caravan; Voyage; Roman Notes; Atlantis; Forgotten But Not; Incompatible (Incompatibilidade de Genios); Accordin’ to Gordon; Triacria; Young Rabbits.

Personnel: John La Barbera: composer, arranger, conductor; Wayne Bergeron: trumpet; Bob O’Donnell: trumpet; Willie Murillo: trumpet; Clay Jenkins: trumpet; Brian Scanlon: alto sax, flute; Kim Richmond: alto sax; Pat La Barbera: tenor, soprano sax; Rob Lockart: tenor sax, flute; Bob Carr: baritone sax, bass clarinet; Les Benedict: trombone; Eric Hughes: trombone; Ryan Dragon: trombone; Ken Kugler: bass trombone; Bill Cunliffe: keyboards; Tom Warrington: bass; Joe La Barbera: drums; Aaron Serfaty: percussion.

Record Label: Jazz Compass

Style: Big Band


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