Knoxville Jazz Orchestra, Thilo Wolf Big Band, and the Westchester Jazz Orchestra
Knoxville Jazz Orchestra
Blues Man from Memphis
Blues Man From Memphis is the second CD by the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra devoted to the music of Donald Brown, who proves again that his proficiency easily outshines his prominence. Brown, whose thematic compositions are invariably engaging and always swing, frames charming lyrical portraits of siblings (Nancy, Jerome) and children (Cynthia, Donny), honors a beloved colleague (Zim Ngqawana), a hero (Malcolm X) and place (New York City), and cleverly profiles the "blues man of the album's title, saxophonist George Coleman.
The KJO, a "local ensemble with world-class talent, performs Brown's compositions with ardor and finesse, whether live (tracks 2,3,7) or in studio. Its prowess is further enhanced by the presence of three superb guest artistssaxophonist Greg Tardy, vibraphonist Stefon Harris and bassist John Claytoneach of whom lends an indispensable helping hand. Tardy delivers impressive solos on soprano ("Nancy ) and tenor ("Daddy's Girl Cynthia, "New York, "Peace For Zim ), while Harris shines on "Blues, "Theme For Malcolm, "Scenic Route, "George Coleman and "Zim, Clayton on "Donny's Heart and "George Coleman. As for Brown, his tasteful piano garnishes every track save "Theme for Malcolm (one of five charts by director/trumpeter Vance Thompson). Brown arranged "Scenic Route, Bill Mobley "Nancy and "New York.
Brown, who has been labeled "a genius by no less an authority than Wynton Marsalis, does his best to warrant the accolade, while the KJO and its guests simply do him proud. A splendid session from stem to stern.
Thilo Wolf Big Band
Big Band Shout
Thilo Wolf's Big Band Shout, we are informed in the booklet, was "recorded live . . . on the occasion of taping the television production SWING IT, the only plausible response to which is "wow! One simply can't imagine a television program of this caliber on any outletnetwork, cable or publichere in the States. This is for the most part the sort of uncompromising big-band jazz that hasn't graced TV screens in these parts for too many years (read: decades). And judging from the response, the German audience is clearly elated, even before Wolf welcomes his special guests: trumpeter Ray Anthony and blues/gospel singer Joan Faulkner and her backup group, the Expressions.
After four instrumentals including Cole Porter's "Easy To Love and Lester Young's "Tickletoe, Anthony, an octogenarian who has been making beautiful music for more than seventy years (and still has decent chops), enters with his signature theme, "Man With A Horn. He's front and center again on "All Of Me, "Tenderly, "It Had To Be You, "Mr. Anthony's Boogie and the strapping finale, Count Basie's venerable "One O'Clock Jump. Faulkner's showpieces include "He's Got The Whole World, "Ain't Misbehavin', "Let The Good Times Roll and "Amazing Grace. The power-laden band is beyond reproach, as are soloists Wolf, Axel Kühn, Lennart Axelsson, Norbert Nagel, Otto Staniloi, Werner Tauber and Thomas Zoller. It's a shame one has to be in Germany to see and hear music as admirable as this on television, but at least the CD is here to offer some solace.
Westchester Jazz Orchestra
The Westchester Jazz Orchestra, an all-star ensemble comprised of blue-chip musicians who live, play and/or teach in New York City and environs, makes its recorded debut with All In, a congenial assortment of half a dozen jazz standards, Beatle George Harrison's "Here Comes The Sun (handsomely scored by artistic director Mike Holober) and Ken Berger's off-center arrangement of Joe Garland's iconic Glenn Miller theme, "In The Mood. Unlike some groups that sacrifice clarity for self-importance, the WJO keeps its eye squarely on the target, which is to create tasteful music that inspires and enlightens without pretense or condescension.
The WJO also swings, thanks in large measure to superlative charts by Berger, Holober, Tony Kadleck ("Caribbean Fire Dance"), Pete McGuinness ("Peace"), Jay Brandford ("Ping Pong"), Ed Xiques ("Room 608 ) and Mark Patterson ("Turn Out The Stars"). Bill Evans' "Stars is a showcase for pianist Ted Rosenththal, "Sun for alto saxophonist Brandford. They are two among many stellar soloists. The others are baritone saxophonist Xiques, trumpeters Marvin Stamm and Jim Rotondi, tenor saxophonists Jason Rigby and Mike Migliore, alto saxophonist David Brandom, trombonist Larry Farrell, bassist Harvie S and drummer Tony Jefferson. Kadleck and Craig Johnson share lead trumpet duties, astutely guiding the section on four numbers each. A dynamic and warmly recommended debut by a world-class orchestra.
Dean McNeill Large Jazz Ensemble