How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Another Jekyll–and–Hyde big band — but these gentlemen (and one lady) make no attempt to “hyde” the fact that they are (or in some cases were) engineers and technicians by day at Texas Instruments in Dallas, Jazz musicians (amateur division) at night. The story of the TI Jazz Band began in 1986 when a summer co–op student at TI placed an ad in the company newspaper that simply read “Jazz musicians wanted.” Jazz musicians he got, and about three weeks later the band was formed. It has been going strong ever since, performing on more than one hundred–sixty occasions including last summer’s Montreux Jazz Festival while welcoming such celebrated guests as Clark Terry, Kevin Mahogany, Mike Vax, Willie Thomas and legendary educator / clarinetist Leon Breeden. Jazz Bytes was recorded in 1999 when the band had just reached its teens. For what it is — basically a group of weekend warriors — it’s a fairly respectable ensemble; unfortunately, one of the applicants for a position with the band was vocalist Stephanie Mayo who is heard on no less than half a dozen numbers. Mayo has no trouble being heard either, as she makes up in volume what she may lack in other areas while easily surpassing our personal ceiling for big–band vocals, which is two at most (with one an even more pleasing number). When not backing Mayo, the ensemble takes no chances, planting its flag securely in comfortable surroundings — Joe Garland’s “In the Mood,” Freddie Greene’s “Corner Pocket,” Louis Prima’s “Jump, Jive an’ Wail,” Sammy Nestico’s “Quincy and the Count” and Mercer Ellington’s “Things Ain’t What They Used to Be.” As noted, the band’s not bad; the sidemen can obviously read music as well as blueprints, and there are no serious missteps. Soloists are another matter, and for comparison’s sake we would place them generally at the high–school or perhaps junior–college level. As the TI Jazz Band gains more experience and proficiency we’d love to sample more of what it has to offer — but next time, guys, please hold the Mayo.
Track Listing: In the Mood; Until I Met You (Corner Pocket); Orange Colored Sky; All of Me; Candy; Jump, Jive an
Personnel: Kris Berg, music director; Paul Westbrook, Tom Hilbun, Dr. Gerry Burnham, Pavel Krocak, Glen Rothstein, Jeff Lynn, reeds; Bennett Scott, Gary Pearce, Bob Penick, Dennis Doane, trumpets; Steve Schulz, Danny Arthurs, Simon Willats, Jon Bohls, trombones; Pete Dreiske, guitar; John Masnik, Scott Clemons, piano; Frank Locrasto, bass; Joe Odneal, Stan Woodward, drums; Herbert Castro, percussion; Stephanie Mayo, vocals.