Having tested the water with his first big band album, To the Sky
, five years ago, trombonist Ryan Haines springs from the high board, executes a triple somersault, and lands with barely a splash on his second, New Horizons
. Unlike that earlier album, which was largely a tribute to the US Air Force (Haines was then a member of the Falconaires, a component of the Air Force Band of the Rockies), there are no limits to these Horizons
, which include nine of Haines' impressive charts and eight of his compositions (excluding only Samuel Ward's patriotic anthem "America the Beautiful ).
Haines revitalizes the zesty big band sounds of a bygone era (think Benny Goodman) with "Swing Open, spotlights the band's lower register with "Bottom End Shuffle, narrates an amorous and inviting "Goodnight Story and cooks up a saucy helping of "Pan-Fried Doodles. Besides writing, the leader unveils his awesome chops on "Doodles," the bouncy "New Horizons and rapid-fire "No Harm, No Foul, on which he duels with volatile tenor saxophonist Tedd Baker.
"A Problem with the Sun was inspired by a scene in the comic western Rustlers' Rhapsody where a group of gunmen make excuses for missing their target, one of which is "there's a definite problem with the sun. Haines' other composition, "Without You (on which his trombone is prominently featured), is a charming samba dedicated, as is the album itself, to the memory of his late nephew, Matthew David Haines.
To carry out his plan, Haines has assembled a close-knit ensemble comprised almost exclusively of top-notch musicians from a pair of the country's leading service bands, the Air Force Airmen of Note (brass, reeds, bassist Paul Henry) and US Army Blues (pianist Tony Nalker, guitarist Jim Roberts, drummer Steve Fidyk), thus averting any unwelcome missteps. Besides Haines and Baker (who is showcased on "America the Beautiful ), the roster of persuasive soloists includes Fidyk, alto Andy Axelrad and trumpeter Tim Leahey ("Swing Open ), Nalker ("Without You ), baritone Doug Morgan ("Bottom End Shuffle, with Haines on bass trombone), Roberts, Leahey, trumpeter Rich Sigler ("Problem with the Sun ), Sigler and alto Lucas Munce ("Doodles ). Haines plays a larger-bore trombone on "Goodnight Story, calling to mind the high-register acrobatics of Bill Watrous. Brian MacDonald (six tracks) and Kevin Burns take turns leading the powerful trumpet section.
Despite some minor lapses in balance, the recorded sound is commendable, helping to make these New Horizons delightful places to visit and spend some time. As Haines says in the liner notes, "Enjoy the journey! But be sure to fasten your seat beltthere's some turbulence along the way.
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Personnel: Ryan Haines: leader, trombone, bass trombone; Brian McDonald, Kevin Burns, Rich Sigler, Tim
Leahey: trumpet, flugelhorn; Lucas Munce, Andy Axelrad: alto saxophone, flute; Tedd Baker,
Dave Stump: tenor saxophone, flute; Doug Morgan: baritone saxophone, flute; Jeff Martin,
Ben Patterson: trombone; Todd Hanson: bass trombone; Tony Nalker: piano; Jim Roberts:
guitar; Paul Henry: bass; Steve Fidyk: drums.