Louie & Clark Expedition 2 marks the historic reunion of legendary drummer Louie Bellson and trumpeter Clark Terry. While the title references the 1803 Lewis & Clark expedition, it's actually a reprisal of the big band effort Live From New York (Telarc, 1994), which featured the composition "Louie & Clark Expedition. Expedition 2 is more than an encore or swan song for the robust 83 year-old Bellson and 87 year-young Terry; it is, indeed, a celebration of life and a musical tribute to big band jazz.
The duo fronts a seventeen-piece ensemble and, with inspiration from Terry, invites drummers Kenny Washington and Sylvia Cuenca to make a special appearance on Bellson's "Two Guys and A Gal, a drum feature where the three drummers take turns soloing on this scrumptious big band number.
Bellson's thirteen compositions are arranged in part by Nat Pierce, Jack Hayes and conductor/saxophonist Albert Alva, but the majority are from the late Tommy Newsom of the Tonight Show band who, unfortunately, did not live long enough to hear this recording. Newsom's participation is of special significance to Terry, the first African-American to play with the Tonight Show band.
The music opens up with "The Chicago Suite," a four-movement sectional arrangement by Newsom and the latest entry in Bellson's ongoing salute to great American cities. Brilliant solos are heard from tenorist Steve Guerra, soprano Stantawn Kendric, and trumpeters Stjepko Gut and Greg Glassman.
Terry makes an entrance on Alva's bluesy arrangement of "Davenport Blues, blowing softly with an almost velvet touch on the horn. He is featured prominently on the brassy "Terry's Mood, with the muted horn on "Back To The Basics (Old), and on the boisterous "Now (The Young). As for Bellson, his play on the sticks is all over the place on every track. Except for "Chicago Suite 2, "Piacere and "Ballade, every piece opens with his energetic pounding of the cymbals and drums, delivering well-placed drum rolls throughout.
While this is indeed a swinging big band album, there are a couple of nice ballads that deserve mention. "Piacere moves slowly to the delicious play from baritone saxophonist Adam Schroeder who, along with pianist Helen Sung, gives a marvelous performance. Jack Hayes provides the other ballad arrangement on "Ballade, which features saxophonist Guerra's sensuous tenor voicing.
It all wraps up with the swinging "Well Alright Then, containing a slew of solos and a final measure from Terry, as the band plays loudly and with power reminiscent of the Duke Ellington bands with which both Bellson and Terry performed in the early 1950s. There is, in fact, a decidedly Ellington influence throughout the disc. There's more than swing, muscle and grace on Louie & Clark Expedition 2, there's a bit of history that marks it with greatness.
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).