Scott Whitfield Jazz Orchestra East: Live at Birdland (2004)
In his big band arrangements, Whitfield prefers the delicate mixture of flutes and trumpets for slow-moving lines of introduction. Their distant, high-pitched timbres give the session a lightness that carries through to the end of each piece. The band's bottom doesn't get a chance to figure in prominently. Thus, the balance remains tipped in favor of light clouds of harmony.
The band swings through an eclectic program of originals and standards. The J.J. Johnson piece that closes the album, "In Walked Horace," draws a ready comparison to the bebop mentor through Whitfield's fluid technique. Like Johnson, this younger trombonist/bandleader revels in creative improvisation over an established theme. His syncopated accents run confidently over familiar territory. The two pieces where he sings do not fare as well. Whitfield is at his best when climbing all over the horn and turning mainstream jazz charts into lush landscapes.
Hot solo work comes from other directions, too. Several band members, in particular, make memorable contributions: pianist Kenny Ascher, alto & soprano saxophonist Karolina Strassmayer, and baritone saxophonist Dave Schumacher.
Whitfield's big band swings with the tradition of modern jazz. With a little more attention paid to section balance through their musical arrangements, the band could turn their performances into superior engagements.
Track Listing: One-Way Street; Laura; Sapphire Eyes; Juiced Friends; Mimosa; The Gift of Love; Laughin? & Lovin?; In a Mist; In Walked Horace.
Personnel: Scott Whitfield- trombone, vocals; Karolina Strassmayer- alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute; Dan Jordan- tenor saxophone, flute; Dave Schumacher- baritone saxophone, flute; Mike Ponella, Mike Hackert, Bruce Staelens- trumpet, flugelhorn; Pat Hallaran- trombone; Wayne Coniglio- bass trombone; Kenny Ascher- piano; Phil Palombi- bass; Darryl Pellegrini- drums.