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In the interest of brevity, the name of Chicago-based trumpeter Ian Torres' debut album as shown above has been abridged. For the record, the complete title is January: The Birth and Development of the Ian Torres Big Band. The "Birth" is depicted in the first five numbers, recorded in 2008-09, "Development" in the last half-dozen, recorded in 2013. The album as a whole is an homage to Torres' "inspiration, cheerleader, biggest supporter and fan"his mother, Janis, who died suddenly in January 2007.
After a year of grieving, counterbalanced by composing and rehearsing, Torres took his band into a studio in February 2008 to record four songs, then recorded a fifth, "Smile, Please," for an audience at the Jazz Showcase that July, none of which had been released until now. Five years onward the band recorded again, and January blends the earlier and more recent endeavors into "birth and development." Torres arranged every number and wrote all of them save the sunny opener, J.S. Bach's "Air in G," Stevie Wonder
's "Voce e Eu." Four tunes are named after months: besides "January," they are "October," "February" and "March." Torres solos respectably on "March," as well as on the surprisingly upbeat "January" and vigorous "Yo 11."
The band itself is creditable, recorded sound clear and reasonably well-balanced, soloists technically sound if otherwise unimposing. Alto Richard Moore
on "Still Know You." There are four vocals by Leslie Breukelman who uses her soft, "little-girl" voice to fairly good effect in English ("Smile, Please," "If I See," "Still Know You") and another language (Spanish? Portuguese?) on "Voce e Eu." Torres' lyrics ("If I See," "Still Know You") are contemporary; in other words, largely impenetrable to older minds nurtured by the likes of Porter, Berlin, Loesser and their compatriots. Others may find them more engaging.
This is for the most part an admirable launching pad for trumpeter Torres and his band, which rises to the occasion to subdue his demanding charts while striving to forge an explicit identity of its own. Although that last ambition may have to wait, let us hope that the band continues to evolve and flourish under Torres' able leadership.
Track Listing: Birth, 2008 — Air in G; January; Yo 11; Peaceful Abiding; Smile, Please. Development, 2013 — October; Voce e Eu; If I See; February; Still Know You; March.
Personnel: Ian Torres: leader, composer, arranger, trumpet. Birth — Marc Landes: trumpet; Gerald Bailey: trumpet; James Davis: trumpet, flugelhorn; Rob Haight: alto sax, clarinet; Rich Moore: alto, soprano sax (1, 4); Greg Ward: alto, soprano sax (2, 3); Doug Stone: tenor sax; Mike Salter: tenor sax, bass clarinet; Nick Moran: baritone sax, flute; Raphael Crawford: trombone; Ryan Schultz: bass trumpet; Rob Clearfield: piano, keyboard; Don Tisch: guitar; Patrick Mulcahy: bass; Tim Davis: drums. Smile, Please — Marc Landes: trumpet; Gerald Bailey: trumpet; Greg Duncan: trumpet; Scott Burns: tenor sax; Caroline Davis: tenor sax; Anthony Bruno: clarinet; Nick Moran: clarinet; Mike Salter: bass clarinet; Raphael Crawford: trombone; Bryant Scott: trombone; Rob Clearfield: piano, keyboard; Don Tisch: guitar; Patrick Mulcahy: bass; Tim Davis: drums; Leslie Beukelman: vocal. Development — Justin Woodward: trumpet; Gerald Bailey: trumpet; Greg Duncan: trumpet; James Davis: trumpet; John Wojciechowski: alto, soprano sax, clarinet; Corbin Andrick: alto sax, clarinet; Scott Burns: tenor sax; Mike Salter: tenor sax; Mark Hiebert: baritone sax, bass clarinet; Raphael Crawford: trombone; Bryant Scott: trombone; Andrew Zelm: trombone; Steve Duncan: bass trombone; Rob Clearfield: piano, keyboard; Don Tisch: guitar; Patrick Mulcahy: bass; Juan Pastor: drums; Leslie Beukelman: vocals.