Alan Baylock / Brussels Jazz Orchestra / Rick Wald / Nathan Tanouye
As on that earlier studio session, all of the persuasive charts on Play That Thing were written by Wald who also composed five of its eight selections and solos on one ("Quascau"). Completing the picturesque program are Herbie Hancock's "Maiden Voyage," Wayne Shorter's "Prince of Darkness" and an offbeat version of Edgar Sampson/Chick Webb's Jazz standard, "Stompin' at the Savoy." Wald's arrangements are weighty and elaborate, and to its credit, the ensemble masters them readily without overdubs. That's one of the benefits of having a sizable pool of accomplished musicians from which to choose, and Wald has chosen well.
While the rhythm section from Castaneda's Dreams (pianist Ted Kooshian, bassist Chip Jackson, drummer Jeff Brillinger) returns intact, there are new faces elsewhere, and engaging solos by several of them including tenors Ted Nash ("Dawn to Dawn," "Savoy") and Adam Kolker ("Dawn to Dawn," "Prince," "Gonna Getcha"), trumpeter Jack Walrath ("Dawn to Dawn," "Quascau," "Prince," "Savoy"), trombonist Noah Bless ("Dawn to Dawn ," "Gonna Getcha") and especially baritone Terry Goss ("Quascau," "Gonna Getcha"). Kooshian, Jackson and Brillinger also have their say, as do trombonists Art Baron and Sam Burtis, trumpeter John Eckert and versatile Lou Marini on alto sax and alto flute.
In summing up, I can do no better than recap the appraisal of Castaneda's Dreams, wherein I wrote that it is "recommended to anyone who appreciates a contemporary big band with charisma and a cutting edge. Recording quality is first-class, playing time as generous as it comes. A neat and handsome package." Play That Thing is comparable in every respect.
Nathan Tanouye & the Las Vegas Jazz Connection
The late Russ Freeman, long known as one of the West Coast's foremost bop-influenced pianists, was also a splendid songwriter, at least one of whose compositions, "The Wind," has been recorded by upwards of forty musical artists and securely enshrined in the pantheon of jazz standards. Composer/arranger Nathan Tanouye, one of Freeman's many admirers, remembers that aspect of his talent on an album comprised of eight of Freeman's themes and Tanouye's warmhearted salute, "Peace for Russ," the last enhanced by the exquisite inventions of guest flugelhornist Bobby Shew.
"Peace" is one of three instrumentals, each one handsomely performed by the Las Vegas Jazz Connection, a full-size ensemble with string section added. The other half-dozen contain lyrics (by Ruth Price, Joel Reisner, Tyja Wilson or Annie Ross) and are sung by Martin Nievera ("Samba de Vida," When Love Was Lost," "Run, Run, Run"), Alicia Cunningham ("From Me to You"), Don Cunningham ("Night Town") and the Cunninghams together ("Music Is Forever").
The orchestra can swing when necessary, as it proves with gusto on "Band-Aid" (written for Freeman's musical partner, Chet Baker) and "One on One," on which one is able to appreciate Freeman's stylish piano again, as his original solo has been electronically embedded in Tanouye's arrangement, sandwiched between incisive statements by alto saxophonist Phil Wigfall and drummer John Abraham. Alto Marc Solis, trumpeter Gil Kaupp and pianist David Loeb keep the heat on high with scorching solos on the zesty "Band-Aid."
As remembrances go, this one is worth bearing in mind. An earnest and well-designed homage to a superb pianist/composer whose body of work, thanks to capable enthusiasts such as Nathan Tanouye, won't soon pass from sight.
University of North Florida Jazz Ensemble 1
With All My Love
On its latest album, With All My Love, the University of North Florida Jazz Ensemble 1 readily enhances its stature as one of the country's leading undergraduate Jazz orchestras. Recording for the first time under its new director, J.B. Scott, the ensemble performs with power, finesse and a keen grasp of nuance and dynamics in a program that embodies three original compositions by guest tenor saxophonist Ed Calle who also arranged the iconic theme from the '50s television series "I Love Lucy."
All other songs and arrangements are by members or former members of the ensemble including the title selection, written by UNF's director of Jazz Studies, Bunky Green, and arranged by one of his students, alto saxophonist Alex Lore (who solos with trumpeter Alex Nguyen and pianist Stephen Dornfeld). Trumpeter Scott Dickinson arranged the murky "Monk's Mood" and Joe Henderson's galloping "Jinriksha" (recorded in concert), baritone Luis Colon Horace Silver's "Opus de Funk." The remaining numbers, "Quiet" and "Hike," were composed and arranged, respectively, by former students Chris Creswell and David Guidi.