How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
This is my kind of big–band music — loose, swinging and straight as an arrow. Okay, so the Top Brass Orchestra from London’s West End isn’t always letter–perfect. What’s far more important is that this band of intrepid warriors is out there in the trenches, engaging in fierce hand–to–hand combat with the ever–growing forces of musical indecency, and has been since 1975. And when we say less–than–perfect we don’t mean to imply amateurish. Far from it. Top Brass is on the whole an admirable ensemble comprised of dedicated professional and semi–pro musicians who love what they are doing, and it shows. On this, its fourth recording, the orchestra reads almost exclusively from the Great American Songbook with most of the charts by such well–known heavyweights as Lennie Niehaus, Tom Kubis, Frank Mantooth, Bill Holman, Marty Paich, Frank Foster and Sammy Nestico. Top Brass has also enlisted the services of a number of talented guest artists including smooth tenor saxophonist Phil Day who solos on seven numbers and is prominently featured on four of them — Irving Berlin’s “Change Partners,” Jule Styne’s “Time After Time,” the Gershwins’ “Fascinatin’ Rhythm” and Carmen Lombardo’s “Seems Like Old Times.” Speaking of saxophonists, the ensemble boasts one of England’s most respected reedmen in Roy Willox who’s typically dazzling on “Just in Time,” “June Is Bustin’ Out All Over” and his ballad showcase, “One for My Baby.” Other notable TB soloists include trumpeter Ron Humphries, trombonist John Bridge, pianist Simon Ashford (featured on Paich’s arrangement of “Body and Soul”) and bassist Tom McQuater. This is timeless music, flawlessly designed for listening or dancing and performed with dexterity and enthusiasm by the Top Brass Orchestra and its guests. If you are able to hunt down a copy of the disc, trap it and mount it on a shelf.
Personnel: Bob Wheal, director; Roy Willox, alto, soprano sax; Connie Peers, alto sax; Eddie Mordue, alto, tenor sax, EWI; Geoff Carter, tenor sax, EWI; Phil Shakespeare, tenor sax; Mike Rubie, baritone sax; Jeremy Moore, Ron Humphries, Peter Baker, Gerry Arthur, trumpet, flugelhorn; Bill Skelton, John Bridge, John Whittaker, trombone; Mike Standley, bass trombone; Roger Moon, Simon Ashton, piano, keyboards; Tom McQuater, bass guitar; Gerry Boyce, drums. Guest artists