How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Trombonist/composer/arranger Pete McGuinness has twenty years on the New York jazz scene under his belt, playing with the Woody Herman Big Band (directed by Frank Tibieri) and the Maria Schneider Orchestra, alongside studies with trombonist Bob Brookmeyer and Manny Album. So it's no surprise that his first recording leading his Pete McGuinness Jazz Orchestra, First Flight, soars and swings with the best of them.
Like all of the best large ensemble leaders, McGuinness showcases the talents of his band members, opening the show with his title tune. It starts out with a bright big band fanfare before featuring a high energy solo by trumpeter Chris Rogers and sizzling turn from tenor saxophonist Tom Christensen. Trombonist McGuinness then steps out front, keeping the pace moving full speed ahead.
McGuinness' arrangement of the Charlie Chaplin gem,"Smile" has a soft, airy hue, and features the leader's smoothly gorgeous vocals, scatting first before taking on the lyrics, with a velvety approach that can be compared very favorably to Chet Baker or Mel Tormé. Wayne Shorter's "Infant Eyes," a laidback ballad, again features McGuinness out front on trombone. With Ivan Lins' "Comecar de Novo," McGuinness and company take on the Brazilian sound, featuring Paul Meyers' lilting guitar and Mike Holober's delicately pretty piano solo in front of a floating arrangement.
The last five tracks are all McGuinness originals, beginning with the pensive, Bob Brookmeyer-inspired "Lonely Dance." "The Tricksters" features a cooking four-trombone front line, and McGuiness wraps up the show with his lighter-than-air (Maria Schneider-inspired, perhaps) "A Fond Farewell," showcasing McGuinness' vocal talents again.
A first-rate debut.
Track Listing: First Flight; Smile; Infant Eyes; Comecar de Novo; Lonely Dance; Chase Scene; Spring Song; The Tricksters; A Fond Farewell.
Personnel: Pete McGuinness: trombone, vocals (2, 9); Dave Pietro: lead alto saxophone, flute; Charles Pillow: alto saxophone, flute; Tom Christensen: tenor saxophone, flute, clarinet; Jason Rigby: tenor saxophone, flute, clarinet; Dave Rickenberg: baritone saxophone; Tony Kadleck: trumpet, flugelhorn; Jon Owens: trumpet, flugelhorn; Bill Mobley: trumpet, flugelhorn; Chris Rogers: trumpet, flugelhorn; Bruce Eidem: trombone; Mike Christianson: trombone; Steve Armour: trombone; Jeff Nelson: bass trombone; Mike Holober: piano; Andy Eulau: bass; Scott Neumann: drums; Paul Meyers: guitar (4).