In spite of its futuristic (and somewhat misleading) title, Moon Trip 2000 wasn’t recorded last year, or anywhere near it. Raul Romero, a splendid saxophonist and even better writer who logged time with big bands led by Woody Herman, Maynard Ferguson, Gene Krupa and Benny Goodman, among others, before settling in Las Vegas in 1955, succumbed to a heart attack two years ago while vacationing in Mexico. Some time before that (it’s not clear exactly when) he invited a number of his Vegas musician friends into a studio to produce this album, which has now been reissued by Americatone. There may have been more than one session, as sound quality varies slightly from track to track. Having said that, we should add that the date — or dates — of the recording is (are) unimportant, as good music is timeless, and this is unequivocally good music. Romero wrote and arranged the first half–dozen of the eight selections, and it’s a shame he wasn’t more widely known for that, as each of them is handsomely framed and consistently charming. No less convincing are the last two numbers, Dick somebody’s (the last name is illegible in the smudged, hand–written liner notes) “Study in Blues” and Herbie Phillips’ “A Little ’Trane.” As is true of another Americatone release reviewed this month (the Sam Trippe Orchestra’s Explosion! ), the personnel roster is incomplete and the booklet seems to have been printed on a substandard mimeograph machine. Soloists, however, are listed, and luckily they include most members of the Jazz Stars Orchestra, which validates its name with appearances by such headliners as trumpeters Bobby Shew, Carl Saunders and Buddy Childers; saxophonists Joe Farrell, Jerry Pinter and Charlie McLean; trombonist Carl Fontana, pianist Ron Feuer and Romero himself who launches his Kenton–like “Journey” with a swinging soprano solo. “Journey,” which runs for more than fourteen minutes, includes bracing solos by Fontana, Feuer, Farrell and flugelhornist Rocky Lombardo. Each of Romero’s compositions is so rhythmically bounteous and melodically graceful that it’s hard to embrace one above another, but we especially admire “Baile Indio” (Indian Dance) and “Tristesse” — which is by no means meant to besmirch the others, “Conversations with Rick,” “Moon Trip 2000” or the mandatory flag–waver, ”Fly by Night.” The easygoing “Study in Blues” offers a cordial change of pace before the orchestra shifts into high gear for the fast–paced finale, “A Little ’Trane,” which features bristling solos by Fontana, alto McLean, trumpeter Billy Hunt, drummer Santo Savino and tenors Rod Adams and Rick Davis. While Americatone’s liner notes and graphic design leave much to be desired, one can hardly impugn the music it has chosen to reissue. Raul Romero was a marvelous composer / arranger, and his Jazz Stars Orchestra is a pleasure to hear.
Contact:Americatone International, 1817 Loch Lomond Way, Las Vegas, NV 89102–4437. Phone 702–384–0030; fax 702–382–1926. Web site, www.americatone.com
Track Listing: Journey; Conversations with Rick; Baile Indio; Moon Trip 2000; Tristesse; Fly by Night; Study in Blues; A Little Trane (51:51).
Personnel: Raul Romero, leader, saxophone; Joe Farrell, Jerry Pinter, Rick Davis, Rod Adams, Charlie McLean, reeds; Rocky Lombardo, Bobby Shew, Carl Saunders, Buddy Childers, Bill Hunt, trumpet, flugelhorn; Carl Fontana, trombone; Ron Feuer, Arnie Teich, piano; Alex Domschott, guitar; Bill Plavan, Frank de la Rosa, bass; Santo Savino, drums. Other personnel unlisted.