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Big Band Caravan

Gordon Goodwin / DePaul University / Wayne Bergeron / South Florida Jazz Orchestra

By Published: December 26, 2008
Another album of traditional Christmas seasonal favorites in a laid-back quasi-jazz mode, released far too late in the season by trumpet ace Wayne Bergeron and the After Hours Brass (two trumpets, trombone, French horn and tuba) with rhythm section and guest appearances by standout vocalist Tierney Sutton on "Christmas Is the Warmest Day of the Year" and "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!" Bergeron's wife and fellow trumpeter, Deb Wagner (the album's producer, label's namesake and director of her own group, The Belle Air Brass), lends her vocal talents to "Santa Baby" (whose come-hither lyric will forever be associated with the peerless Eartha Kitt).

Besides Bergeron and Wagner, the After Hours Brass consists of trombonist Andy Martin, Brad Warnaar on French horn and Alan Kaplan on tuba, supported by bassists Trey Henry or Ken Wild, drummers Jon Friday or Ray Brinker (also the percussionist on five tracks). Pianist Christian Jacob, a member of Sutton's working trio, sits in on her numbers, guitarist Dustin Higgins on "Jolly Old St. Nicholas," trumpeter Gary Slechta on "Santa Baby." Dan Blessinger adds guiro on "The Christmas Song" and "O Come All Ye Faithful."

Those who admire the Canadian Brass and other such groups are sure to warm quickly to Bergeron's accomplished ensemble, as Slechta's amiable, low-key charts, which emphasize tonal color and harmony, are comparable to what one might hear from them. Bergeron, as always, is a standout, playing high-note trumpet when needed as few others can (that's why he's the first-call guy on so many commercials, film soundtracks and television specials). A temperate and engaging musical experience for the holiday season or any other time of year.

South Florida Jazz Orchestra


MAMA Records



One thing becomes immediately apparent as one listens for the first time to the South Florida Jazz Orchestra's debut recording: these gentlemen clearly are not amateurs or part-timers. Not on your vintage sousaphone. Nor are their several well-respected guests—trumpet star Arturo Sandoval, saxophonists Charles Pillow and Ed Calle, vocalists Dana Paul, Kevin Mahogany and Nicole Yarling, and composer/arranger Mike Lewis (who wrote and scored "...And the Basses Are Loaded" and "Waltz for Tikkaroo").

Bassist Chuck Bergeron, the ensemble's nominal leader, has gathered around him a superlative cast of supporting players from all corners of the country who lend their sizable talents to a charming and well-conceived array of standards and originals opening with saxophonist Gary Lindsay's groovy "Blues Gumbo" and closing with Belgian composer and trumpeter Bert Joris' iridescent "Kong's Garden." Sandoval's limber, octave-busting trumpet is showcased with baritone Mike Brignola on "Tikkaroo," Pillow's creamy, acrobatic soprano with pianist Doug Bickel on "Role Models," Paul with tenor Calle on Rodgers and Hart's "This Can't Be Love," Mahogany with tenor Gary Keller on the Nat King Cole hit "Nature Boy," Yarling with trombonist Dante Luciani on the wistful ballad "Blame It on My Youth." Bergeron, as one would assume, takes center stage on "Basses Are Loaded" while Pillow and Sandoval add captivating solos on "Gumbo."

Rounding out the admirable program are Ernesto Lucuona's enchanting "Siboney" (an agreeable mid-tempo romp that complements agile solos by Luciani and trumpeter Alex Norris), Joe Zawinul's leisurely ensemble piece "Midnight Mood" (with brief blowing space for Norris and alto Gary Lindsay) and the lively Thad Jones-like "Touch And Go," written by the album's producer, trombonist John Fedchock, and featuring Bickel and tenor Ken Mattis.

The hope here is that the SFJO can surmount any logistical hurdles and stay together, as its future seems bright indeed. As for its debut, three cheers and a brass ring to the ensemble for a job well done, and to MAMA Records for having the wisdom and backbone to preserve something as musically rewarding as this studio session on record.

Frank Derrick

The Beat Goes On

Jazzed Media



On his debut album, The Beat Goes On, Chicago-bred/Florida-based drummer Frank Derrick, an astute and nimble craftsman who has obviously listened closely to the great Buddy Rich, offers the listener two sessions for the price of one—half a dozen numbers by his swinging big band, another six by a close-knit quintet with trumpeter Melton Mustafa and saxophonist Billy Ross out front, ably backed by Derrick, guest pianist George Caldwell from NYC and bassists Chuck Bergeron or Ranses Colon.

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