The BBC Big Band is somewhat like the two–faced god Janus, showing its “hip” face to perceptive Jazz aficionados and its “square” face to those who simply want amiable background music that doesn’t require much thought. Trouble is, the record–buying public doesn’t always know which BBC band is going to show up. Another recent release, The Gleneagles, directed by Barrie Forgie, was disappointing to those of us who’d prefer more Jazz and less schmaltz; Evidence, directed by trombonist Jiggs Whigham, finds the band in a more adventurous frame of mind, saluting hard–core Jazz enthusiasts by storming earnestly through a seductive program of luminous standards, splendid original works by Francy Boland, Paul Ferguson, John Clayton and Petri Juutilainen and swinging charts by Clayton, Vaughn Wiester, Mike Barone, Rick Wilkins and Manny Albam. Not satisfied merely to conduct, Whigham unlimbers his agile trombone to good effect on Wiester’s arrangement of Jobim’s “Dindi,” Juutilainen’s “Lester Went Out,” Wilkins’ definitive treatment of Ray Noble’s “The Touch of Your Lips,” Ferguson’s “Blues for Clare,” Clayton’s “Shout Me Out” and Albam’s arrangement of “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To.” When not soloing, Whigham makes sure that every i is dotted and every t is crossed, and the ensemble responds with a letter–perfect performance that presses home the richness and vitality of every number. After opening with Clayton’s lively take on “Deed I Do” (solos by trumpeter Mark White, flugel Paul Eshelby, tenor Martin Williams), the band slows the pace for “Dindi” and Barone’s come–hither arrangement of “Yes Sir, That’s My Baby” (Andy Panayi, alto; Roy Babbington, bass). Drummer Harold Fisher, once the driving force behind Jack Sharpe’s excellent big band, assumes the same role here, kicking the band hard when necessary and playing with elegance and restraint when that is called for (as on “The Touch of Your Lips,” whose handsome solos are by Whigham and Williams). Williams returns with pianist Andy Vinter on “Thou Swell,” trombonist Gordon Campbell is showcased on Boland’s lovely “Clair Obscur,” and vibraphonist Anthony Kerr shares center stage with trumpeters White, John Ruddick and Nigel Carter on Clayton’s arrangement of Thelonious Monk’s skittish “Evidence.” Whigham and alto Howard McGill are the soloists on “Blues for Clare,” Whigham, McGill and Kerr on the bluesy finale, “Shout Me Out.” If you’ve been searching for a crisp and dynamic recording by the BBC Big Band’s “A Team,” you need look no further. Here it is.
Contact: The Doyen Centre, Vulcan St., Oldham, Lancashire OL1 4EP, England. Phone 0161 628 3799; fax 0161 628 0177.
Track Listing: Deed I Do; Dindi; Yes Sir, That
Personnel: Jiggs Whigham, music director, trombone; Howard McGill, Andy Panayi, Jeff Daly, alto sax; Vic Ash, Martin Williams, tenor sax; Jay Craig, baritone sax; Nigel Carter, Brian Rankine, Mark White, Paul Eshelby, John Ruddick, trumpet; Gordon Campbell, Andy Wood, Cliff Hardie, Eddie Lorkin, John Higinbotham, trombone; Andy Vinter, John Horler, piano; Graham Atha, guitar; Anthony Kerr, vibes, percussion; Roy Babbington, bass; Harold Fisher, drums.