While Toledo isn’t usually thought of as a hotbed of contemporary Jazz, they must be doing something right in that northwestern Ohio city on the shores of Lake Erie, as Groovin’ is the second outstanding album in the last year or two by the highly impressive community–based Toledo Jazz Orchestra. About that earlier endeavor, Out of Nowhere, we wrote: “. . .the TJO romps spryly through a program of time–tested standards and Jazz originals with the breathless enthusiasm of a teenager on his / her first date. . . .Every section is in synch, the trumpets boast power to spare, trombones and reeds swing audaciously, and the sure–handed rhythm section drives the band adamantly forward, quickly adding more fuel whenever the temperature needs tweaking.” The same applies here with all but one of the baker’s dozen selections (Tom Garling’s razzle–dazzle finale, “You Got It”) composed and / or arranged by members of the orchestra including music director Dave Melle. When not flexing its fraternal muscles, the TJO offers unerring support for its splendid guest vocalists, Kelly Broadway (“Getting to Know You,” arranged by Melle) and Lori LeFevre Johnson (“The Masquerade Is Over”). Alto saxophonist Jack Taylor sets a lively pace with his swinging curtain–raiser, “Minor Bop,” on which he and guitarist John Johnson share solo honors. Taylor also arranged “Here’s That Rainy Day,” “There’ll Never Be Another You” and “Masquerade.” Trumpeter Jimmy Cook, who wrote the buoyant “Groovin’” and easygoing “Sweet Momma,” is showcased on the latter as well as on Melle’s lovely arrangement of “Portrait of Jennie.” Flugel Scott Potter has the stage to himself on “Polka Dots and Moonbeams,” tenor Andrew Bishop on his mellow bossa, “More Than Sugar,” trombonist Scott Rogers on Melle’s robust treatment of “There Is No Greater Love.” Other soloists are soprano Steve Wood and pianist Eric Dickey (“Here’s That Rainy Day”), alto Mark Lemle (“Groovin’”), Wood (tenor) and trombonist Dan Saygers (“Another You”), Lemle (soprano) and Dickey (“Invitation”), Bishop, Rogers and lead trumpet Ric Wolkins (“You Got It”). Recording quality is admirable, as is the 63:28 playing time. About the nicest thing we can say about the TJO’s second album is that it’s as good as the first one — and that’s good enough to please almost any big–band enthusiast.
Personnel: Dave Melle, music director; Mark Lemle, Jack Taylor, Andrew Bishop, Steve Wood, Jason Yost, saxes, woodwinds; Ric Wolkins, Dave Tippett, Keith Powell, Scott Potter, Jimmy Cook, trumpet, flugelhorn; Scott Rogers, Dan Saygers, Kevin Shope, Phil Smith, trombone; Eric Dickey, piano; John Johnson, guitar; Kevin Eikum, bass; Roger Schupp, drums. Guest vocalists