The Indianapolis Jazz Orchestra: Cook the Books (2005)

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The Indianapolis Jazz Orchestra: Cook the Books
Someone help me out here. If big bands really are dead, as I've often heard, why is it that world-class ensembles like the Indianapolis Jazz Orchestra keep springing up like weeds almost everywhere one looks in this great country of ours? I'd never heard of the IJO—didn't even know they had a band there—so Cook the Books was most definitely a close encounter of the eye-opening (and jaw- dropping) kind.

Apparently, the IJO relies heavily on its stable of talented arrangers, and they come through with flying colors on every number, breathing new life into old standards, sculpting handsome original compositions, and even revitalizing the traditional hymn "Amazing Grace."? Five of the charts are by IJO charter member Dave Wilken, four others by trombonist Ryan Fraley (including "Cook the Books"? and "The 'Tooth,"? his buoyant homage to the late pianist/composer Frank Mantooth). Drummer Ralph Johnson arranged "Johnny One Note"? and "Put on a Happy Face"? for the ensemble's vocal group, The Capitolaires, Billy Strayhorn's "Lush Life"? for singer Lydia Clowers. The remaining charts are by Les Taylor ("Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered"?) and lead trombonist Vince Laine (Harold Arlen's "If I Only Had..."?) from the film The Wizard of Oz.

"Bewitched,"? with vocal by Rick Vale, is set to a Latin beat, as are "Sway"? (sung by Jalean Addington) and Johnny Green's standard, "Body and Soul,"? on which Fraley and trumpeter Gary Graziano solo. Fraley is featured on "When Sunny Gets Blue,"? tenor Josh Weirich on "Amazing Grace,"? flugel Don Smith on Justin Kessler's "Midnight in Little Chicago,"? Laine on Wilken's insouciant, Basie-like "Li'l Lady,"? soprano Scott Hobson on "If I Only Had..."? Bob Stright enlivens "Cook the Books"? and "The 'Tooth,"? and it's refreshing to hear big-band vibraphone solos, which remind one of the rip-roaring Terry Gibbs ensembles from the late '50s and early '60s. The session ends not with a whimper but a bang—Wilken's brash Afro- Cuban swinger, "Cohibas"? (blistering solos courtesy of Graziano and baritone Pat O'Neal).

To say that the IJO is impressive is to understate the case. This is an orchestra that starts at impressive and keeps getting better. Yes, there are (five) too many vocals for our taste, but the nine ensemble tracks more than make up for that. And it's always a pleasure to shake hands, so to speak, with a remarkable new band. To ice the cake, Cook the Books is splendidly recorded and plays for more than 63 minutes (most of which are instrumental). A blue-ribbon winner? No doubt about it.

Track Listing: Cook the Books; When Sunny Gets Blue; Lush Life; Body and Soul; Amazing Grace; Sway; Johnny One Note; The Tooth; Midnight in Little Chicago; Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered; Put on a Happy Face; If I Only Had . . .; Lil Lady; Cohibas (63:26).

Personnel: Jeff Anderson, music director, trumpet; Scott Hobson, Bill Tongate, alto sax, clarinet, flute; Andy Lamke, Josh Weirich, tenor sax, clarinet, flute; Pat ONeal, baritone sax, clarinet, bass clarinet, flute; Gary Graziano, Don Smith, Kevin Shoop, trumpet; Vince Laine, Brad Schrock, Ryan Fraley, trombone; Rick Balek, bass trombone; Mark Harting (5), tuba; Janet Anderson, piano; Steve Mathews, bass; Ralph Johnson, drums; Bob Stright, vibes, auxiliary percussion; Lydia Clowers, Jalean Addison, Rick Vale and The Capitolaires (Addington, Vale, Clowers, Stright), vocals.

Record Label: JASI

Style: Big Band


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