One of the things that makes Loren Schoenberg’s orchestra such a pleasure to hear is the leader’s almost encyclopedic knowledge of music — not only Jazz, but music in general — and his willingness to embrace so many styles and genres to frame a musical image that not only charms but surprises as well. On Out of This World, Schoenberg shifts gears more often than a truck driver in West Virginia, but every move he makes meshes perfectly with the others to produce a colorful and cohesive listening experience. The orchestra, which is nearing its 20th anniversary, traverses far–fung territory from swing to contemporary, sampling the wares of such disparate composer/arrangers as Duke Ellington, George Gershwin, Richard Rodgers, Billy Strayhorn, Astor Piazzolla, Eddie Sauter, Bill Finegan, Sammy Fain, Harold Arlen, Bob Graettinger, Jerome Kern, Benny Carter, Bill Holman and Sigmund Romberg. The songs vary from the well–known (“That Old Feeling,” “Love Walked In,” “Out of This World”) to the barely known (Ellington’s “Moon Over Cuba” and “Jig Walk,” Piazzolla’s “Pulsacion #1,” Kern’s “Sure Thing,” Graettinger’s “Iguana,” Carter’s “Shufflebug Shuffle”) and striking originals by members of the orchestra (Mark Lopeman’s “VFW,” Eddie Bert’s “Around Town”). Schoenberg’s acumen is reflected in his wonderful choice of material for the band’s vocalist, Barbara Lea — Strayhorn’s “Bittersweet” (lyrics by Roger Schore), Kern/Ira Gershwin’s seldom–encountered “Sure Thing,” and most enchanting of all, Romberg/Dorothy Fields’ precious gem, “Close as Pages in a Book,” from a long–forgotten Broadway musical (circa 1945), Up in Central Park. Lea’s singing the verse to this ardent love song is as mouth–watering as icing on a cake. The names Sauter and Finegan, of course, are linked in many minds because of their groundbreaking big band of more than 40 years ago. Sauter is represented here by his arrangement of another obscure tune, “The Fable of the Rose,” Finegan by his version of Rodgers and Hart’s “Blue Room.” Guitarist James Chirillo scored Arlen/Johnny Mercer’s “Out of This World” and Piazzolla’s tango, “Pulsacion #1,” while Lopeman arranged the walking opener, Fain/Lew Brown’s “That Old Feeling,” which manifests a definite Zoot Sims/Bob Brookmeyer feeling with Schoenberg sitting in for Zoot, valve trombonist Mike Christianson for Brookmeyer. While there are few extended solos (the orchestra is top banana), altos Jon Gordon (“VFW,” Bill Holman’s arrangement of “Lover Man“) and Steve Wilson (“Pulsacion #1”), clarinetist Scott Robinson (“Fable of the Rose”) and tenor Doug Lawrence (“Around Town”) are given room to stretch, and each one is exemplary. Other earnest soloists include Schoenberg, Christianson, Chirillo, trumpeters Tony Kadkeck and John Eckert, trombonists Bert and Bobby Pring, bassist Dennis Irwin and pianist Dick Katz. “Close as Pages in a Book” is performed by a smaller group, as is an easygong version of “Love Walked In.” But big band or small, Schoenberg has the right idea, and Out of This World is, in the best sense of that phrase, a fairly accurate description of much of the music on this marvelous TCB release.
Track listing: That Old Feeling; Close as Pages in a Book ; The Blue Room; Out of This World; VFW; Iguana; The Fable of the Rose; Pulsacion #1; Moon Over Cuba; Jig Walk; Love Walked In; Bittersweet; Lover Man; Around Town; Sure Thing; Shufflebug Shuffle (64:18).
Loren Schoenberg, tenor sax, leader; Bob Millikan, John Eckert, Tony Kadleck, Greg Gisbert, trumpet; Mike Christianson, trombone, valve trombone, tuba; Eddie Bert, Bobby Pring, trombone; Steve Wilson, Jon Gordon, alto sax, soprano sax, clarinet, flute; Doug Lawrence, tenor sax, clarinet; Mark Lopeman, tenor sax, clarinet, flute; Danny Bank, baritone sax, bass clarinet, clarinet; Dick Katz, piano; James Chirillo, acoustic and electric guitar; Dennis Irwin, bass; Chuck Redd, drums, vibes; Barbara Lea, vocals. On