In the hands of the twenty-something bandleader and arranger Ed Puddick and his equally young, London-based seventeen-piece ensemble, Frank Loesser's classic Broadway score joins the ranks of those which have been adapted for big band (Stan Kenton
's West Side Story
, Les Brown
's South Pacific
, and Ted Heath
's The Sound of Music
all come to mind). Puddick's writing combines the lush voicings of Gil Evans
' arrangements for the late 1940s Claude Thornhill
band with Bill Holman
's linear counterpoint, Shorty Rogers
-inspired swing, and the humorous whimsy of Billy May
, providing settings which Loesser (the centennial of whose birth was celebrated in 2010) would have undoubtedly approved.
The opening "Fugue for Tinhorns" is actually a canon featuring the entire trumpet section in the roles of the three horse-bookies. "Follow the Fold" begins with a solemn evocation of a Salvation Army band by the French horn and trombones, interrupted by the plunger trumpet of Andy Gathercole, which then leads to a swinging section reminiscent of 1930's Benny Goodman, punctuated by solos from trombonist Simon Walker, guitarist Chris Allard, and altoist Matt Wates. Jim Rattigan, one of the premier jazz stylists on French horn since the late John Graas
and Julius Watkins
, takes the helm on the ballad "I'll Know," with gorgeous sax accompaniment.
"Pet Me, Poppa," "Adelaide," and "A Woman In Love," were all composed for the 1955 film version of Guys and Dolls
. "Pet Me, Poppa" includes a rap by the reed section and an exchange between altoist Mark Hanslip and trombonist Mike Feltham à la the reunited Dorsey Brothers
ensemble of the '50s. "Adelaide," which was sung by Frank Sinatra
in the film, appears in funky, polytonal dress with Allard's Eric Clapton
-inspired guitar, Claire McInerney's baritone sax, and Noel Langley's flugelhorn. Puddick casts "A Woman In Love" in a bossa nova rhythm, once again spotlighting Rattigan's horn, assisted by Hanslip and Allard.
The title track is the most May-oriented arrangement, featuring xylophonist Bethan Jones, Wates, McInerney, Walker, Allard, and bassist Tom Farmer. "Adelaide's Lament" opens with a reminiscence of Evans' classic chart of Joaquin Rodrigo's "Concierto de Aranjuez," for Miles Davis
, before shifting gears into a feature for McInerney's bass clarinet. "If I Were a Bell" also commences with a Davis/Evans-inspired chorus headlined by Gathercole on flugel, but then kicks into a Basie-esque groove. "Luck Be a Lady" is introduced by a blues chorus from trumpeter Percy Pursglove, followed by Wates' fiery alto on the tune's changes.
A jaunty, march-like tempo characterizes "Sue Me," leading into a reggae-flavored "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat" (which Loesser originally conceived in a pseudo-gospel vein), featuring drummer Richard Barr in his lone solo, along with trombonist Feltham, guitarist Allard, and bass clarinetist McInerney. The finale ultimo is a straight-ahead reprise of the title song in all-out Basie-meets-Evans style.
Personnel: Ed Puddick: leader: arranger, trombone; Chris Allard: guitar; Tom Farmer: bass; Richard Barr: drums; Bethan Jones: xylophone, marimba; Andy Gathercole: trumpet, flugelhorn; Noel Langley: trumpet, flugelhorn; Percy Pursglove: trumpet: flugelhorn; Mike Feltham, trombone; Simon Walker, trombone; Alan Hardiman: bass trombone; Jim Rattigan: French horn; Mark Hanslip: alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, flute, clarinet; Matt Wates: alto saxophone, flute, clarinet; Robin Fincker: tenor saxophone, clarinet; Claire McInerney: baritone saxophone, bass clarinet.