The Jazzmania Big Band: New Impressions (2003)
The Jazzmania Big Band, writes leader Peter Guidi, “represents the highest level of the Muziekschool Amsterdam’s Jazz department and contains some of the best young Jazz talents in The Netherlands.” No doubt about that. The players are indeed young (as the group photo in the album’s booklet attests) and remarkably talented the ensemble is taut and agile, the soloists bright and enterprising, and the youthful energy fairly leaps from the speakers.
Best of all, Jazzmania chooses wonderful music, combining popular standards by Gershwin, Rodgers, Ray Noble and Bronislau Kaper and Jazz sketches by Quincy Jones, Horace Silver, John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie and Rob van Bavel with Guidi’s spellbinding originals, “Princess of Flutopia” and the two-part “Up at Seven,” and infallibly nailing superb big-band charts by van Bavel, Sammy Nestico, Les Hooper, Mark Taylor, Jerry van Rooyen, Mike Tomaro, Jan Wessels, Michael Philip Mossman and others.
Any album as good as this one makes choosing highlights exceedingly difficult, as almost everything transcends one’s personal yardstick: from Nestico’s dynamic arrangement of Gershwin’s “Strike Up the Band,” which kicks the album into high gear, through the spirited finale, Dizzy’s bop classic “Groovin’ High,” smartly arranged by Taylor. Guidi’s Caribbean-flavored “Princess of Flutopia,” arranged by Henri Gerrits, is simply enchanting, while his tour de force for solo flute, “Low-Down Morning Blues” (part 1 of “Up at Seven”) suggests the second coming of Rahsaan Roland Kirk, an impression that is further enhanced by Guidi and clarinetist Joris Roelofs as they swing impetuously through part 2.
Roelofs, this time on alto, is featured on Nestico’s arrangement of Jones’s “Quintessence,” trombonist Erik Blok on Rodgers and Hart’s wistful ballad “Where or When,” handsomely scored by Patrick Schenkius. Alto Carlo Banning has his say on “Green Dolphin Street,” “Nica’s Dream,” “The Touch of Your Lips” and “Groovin’ High,” trombonist Michael Rorby on “Green Dolphin Street,” “Impressions” and “Groovin’ High.” Other laudable improvisers include drummer Balijon, tenors Thomas Bruijn and Christiano Giardini, trumpeters Herwin Lokken and Robbert Scherpenisse, guitarist Joeri de Graaf and especially pianist Jasper Lekkerkerk who’s a standout on “My Favorite Things,” “The Touch of Your Lips” and van Bavel’s feverish flag-waver, “Please Take Notice.”
A further word about the charts, as they contribute so much to the album’s over-all excellence and charm. Mossman arranged Silver’s “Nica’s Dream,” Taylor, Coltrane’s “Impressions,” Tomaro “Woody ‘n You,” van Rooyen “My Favorite Things,” Wessels “The Touch of Your Lips,” and each one is a concise model of how to do it right.
The Jazzmania Big Band, now ten years old, has won a total of sixteen prizes (including fourteen firsts) in national or international competitions, and it won’t take the informed listener long to understand why. This is a remarkably impressive ensemble that serves, in Guidi’s words, as “a stepping stone for many talented young players.” Jazzmania has them in abundance, and the future of big-band Jazz, at least in The Netherlands, seems as luminous and breathtaking as the aurora borealis.
Track Listing: Strike Up the Band; On Green Dolphin Street; Quintessence; Princess of Flutopia; Where or When; Low-Down Morning Blues; Up at Seven; Please Take Notice; Nica
Personnel: Peter Guidi, leader, flute; Carlo Banning, alto, soprano sax; Joris Roelofs, alto sax, clarinet; Thomas Bruijn, Christiano Giardini, tenor sax; Mechteld Bannier, baritone sax; Herwin Lokken, Ywo Lamonaca, Wim Bouman, Robbert Scherpenisse, trumpet; Erik Blok, Michael Rorby, Anton Kuut, trombone; Santi Matsumoto, bass trombone; Jasper Lekkerkerk, piano; Joeri de Graaf, guitar; Eric Hartgers, bass; Klaas Balijon, drums.