Drummer Louie Bellson and trumpeter Clark Terry trump age to front a big band with verve and youthful vitality. Though both are in their eighties, age has not diminished the wonderful ability they have shown through their long and distinguished careers to give jazz a glorious presence.
Bellson and Terry collaborated in 1994 on the big band recording, Live From New York (Telarc), which featured a track called "Louie and Clark Expedition." This, then, becomes another odyssey larger in dimension, which makes it a magnificent edifice that will long be remembered.
Fronting a seventeen-piece band, the music was composed by Bellson, using different arrangers including Tommy Newsom, Albert Alva, Nat Pierce and Jack Hayes.
The recording opens with the four-part "Chicago Suite," each segment bringing in a different mood but all revolving around swing. The breezy "State Street Swing" sets the tone, followed by the balladic "City of Seasons," on which trumpeter Stjepko Gut marks his territory with a stately solo that brings in velvet strings and lush orchestration.
Terry shows that he can still play with the same sense of urgency and understatement that have been hallmarks of his career. He vents the blues with a swinging undercurrent on "Terry's Mood." He brings a happy, lithe air to "Back to the Basics (Old)." It's a treat to hear him blow those short phrases, twisting his way in and through the melody and then cutting in with a sharp line. And, finally, on "Now (The Young)" he gets the blues into an intimate conversation with the walking bass line of Marcus McLaurine.
Bellson adds drummers Kenny Washington and Sylvia Cuenca on "Two Guys and a Gal." The stylistic virtuosity of each shows how rhythm can be tempered and changed, how attack and pulse can add to the dynamics.
Bellson's vision, combined with that of Terry and the band, bring to the fore the delights of big band jazz in all its glory.
Personnel: Louie Bellson: composer, drums; Clark Terry: trumpet, flugelhorn; Albert Alva: conductor, alto saxophone, flute; Stantawn Kendrick: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute; Steve Guerra: tenor saxophone; Whitney Staten: tenor saxophone; Adam Schroeder: baritone saxophone; Stafford Hunter: trombone; Andrae Murchison: trombone; Cameron MacManus: trombone; Jack Jeffers: bass trombone; Frank Greene: trumpet, flugelhorn; Tony Lujan: trumpet, flugelhorn; Stjepko Gut: trumpet, flugelhorn; Greg Glassman: trumpet, flugelhorn; Helen Sung: piano; Marcus McLaurine: bass; Sylvia Cuenca: drums (6); Kenny Washington: drums (6).