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To paraphrase Maurice Chevalier's earnest anthem in the film Gigi, "Thank heaven for little pack rats!" Just when we'd almost given up hope of ever hearing anything new from the fabulous Terry Gibbs Dream Band of the late '50s-early '60s, TG came across eleven boxes of tapes on the top shelf of a closet marked "Big Band Sundown, Seville 1959." They'd been sitting there since Terry and his family moved back into the house eight months after the Northridge, CA, earthquake of 1994, cleverly concealed among twenty-five boxes of reel-to-reel tapes that seemed destined to gather dust until they decomposed. Instead, Gibbs sent the Sundown / Seville tapes to friend and recording engineer Rod Nicas who burned CDs from them. When he heard them, Gibbs says, "I flipped out because there was enough material to put out another original Dream Band CD." Chances are you'll flip out too when you hear the new album, appropriately titled One More Time and featuring the band's usual lineup of all-stars, several of whom (including Conte Candoli, Stu Williamson, Joe Maini, Bobby Burgess, Lou Levy, Buddy Clark, Mel Lewis and Irene Kral) are no longer with us. Every name should be familiar to big-band enthusiasts save one, the DB's baritone saxophonist, Jack Schwartz, who I suspect may be Jack Nimitz in disguise (he's on most of the band's other albums). But as he takes no solos one can't be certain of that. The album's recorded sound isn't the greatest, but in most other respects this is high-grade ore. "What I like about this CD," Gibbs writes in the liner notes, "is that, since most of the tapes I chose came from the last sets of the night, the band was real relaxed. I had opened up these arrangements for the guys to solo. Though the Dream Band was known for its strong ensemble work, people sometimes forget that we always had excellent soloists in the band too." Excellent indeed which is one reason why so many of them had such long and distinguished careers in Jazz. Candoli, who passed away last year, is sublime on his features, "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" and "I Remember You," and there are tasteful comments elsewhere by Williamson, Katzman, altos Maini (tenor on Al Cohn's "The Fuzz") and Charlie Kennedy, trombonists Burgess and Bob Enevoldsen, tenors Bill Perkins, Bill Holman and Med Flory, pianists Levy, Pete Jolly and Ben Aronov, drummer Lewis and of course Terry himself on vibes (and torrid "two-fingered piano" on "Jumpin' at the Woodside"). The charts by Cohn, Flory, Sy Johnson, Marty Paich, Wes Hensel, Manny Albam and Bob Brookmeyer are stout and spicy, and the Dream Band storms through them with typical drive and enthusiasm. The first ten selections are instrumentals, the next three vocals by Kral. "No one knew her at that time," Gibbs writes, "but whoever heard her knew she could sing. One night when she was in the audience, I asked her to sit in with us. It was really like a jam session; she called out a song and told us her key, and we jumped right into it." Kral's vocals, on "Sometimes I'm Happy," "Moonlight in Vermont" and "Lover Come Back to Me," precede the finale, Basie's thundering "Woodside," and follow Brookmeyer's debonair "Just Plain Meyer" with its crisp intro by Jolly and scorching solos by Gibbs and Flory. Gibbs wrote "The Fat Man," Johnson "The Subtle Sermon," Al Epstein "Slittin' Sam (The Shaychet Man)." Paich arranged Sy Oliver's "Opus One," Flory "Flying Home" and "Woodside." Having heard the Dream Band's six albums, the opinion here is that the newest, One More Time, is also the best. Not only is the band in superior form, while the audience is less intrusive than usual, but the playing time is seventy-seven minutes compared to the forty- or fifty-plus that was the norm on the first five volumes. In short, an unequivocal thumbs-up.
Contact: Contemporary Records, 10th and Parker, Berkeley, CA 94710. Web site, www.fantasyjazz.com
Track Listing: The Fuzz; The Subtle Sermon; Opus One; Smoke Gets in Your Eyes; Slittin' Sam (the Shaychet Man); Prelude to a Kiss; Flying Home; I Remember You; The Fat Man; Just Plain Meyer; Sometimes I'm Happy; Moonlight in Vermont; Lover Come Back to Me; Jumpin' at the Woodside (77:02).
Personnel: Tracks 1, 3, 4, 6, 10, 14 -- Terry Gibbs, leader, vibes; Al Porcino. Ray Triscari, Conte Candoli, Stu Williamson, trumpet; Bob Enevoldsen, Joe Cadena, Vern Friley, trombone; Joe Maini, alto, tenor sax; Charlie Kennedy, alto sax; Bill Holman, Med Flory, tenor sax; Jack Schwartz, baritone sax; Pete Jolly, piano; Max Bennett, bass; Mel Lewis, drums. Tracks 2, 5, 7-9, 11-13 -- Porcino, Triscari out, John Audino, Lee Katzman in; Enevoldsen, Cadena out, Bobby Burgess, Bill Smiley in; Holman out, Bill Perkins in; Jolly out, Lou Levy, Benny Aronov (5, 11-13) in; Bennett out, Buddy Clark in.