Mike Vax Big Band / Dave Siebels / Phil Woods / London Horn Sound
What does all this sound like? Basically, like a large number of French horns performing in front of a rhythm section. What else would one expect to hear? That's not to imply that the music is less than resourceful and entertaining, only that there are enough French horns assembled to please even the most zealous Francophile. The jazz soloistsSimcock, Pip Eastop, Richard Bissill and Jim Rattigancertainly coax the most out of their horns, even while inadvertently exemplifying why the instrument has never quite made the A-list when it comes to spontaneous blowing. Still and all, there are moments of excitement, beauty and surprise, such as sixteen horns and rhythm coming to grips with Maynard Ferguson's volcanic "Give It One" (solo by Eastop). Among other highlights: "The Trolley Song," "God Bless the Child" (much better without the lyric), Ellington / Strayhorn's "Daydream," Bissill's "Los Jaraneros" (guitar and marimba added), Rattigan's rhythmic "Caseoso" (on which he solos), Timothy Jackson's rondo, "Three Point Turn," Marvin Hamlisch's "The Way We Were" (arranged as a chorale by Simcock) and the swift and groovy "Blues for Hughie" (with Simcock and Eastop imparting the album's most indelible solo statements).
Although recorded in a studio, the CD has a reverberant "concert hall" sound that smartly underscores its unorthodox instrumentation. Simcock, bassist Sam Burgess and drummer Martin France are sturdy and unwavering, while the horns are as pliable as horns can be. In sum, a generous banquet for French horn lovers.
Mustermesse Basil 1956, Part 1
There was at least one thing that all the best-known ensembles of the epic big band era had in common: an explicit personality. Count Basie, Woody Herman, Duke Ellington, Stan Kenton, Jimmie Lunceford, Glenn Miller, Harry James, the Dorsey brotherseach one placed a unique and memorable stamp on the music, leaving no doubt after a few brief measures about whose band was in the spotlight. And each band hadand hasits champions, those who place its singular blueprint at the pinnacle of big band supremacy.
Those who place the Count Basie Orchestra above all others won't find much that is displeasing on Volume 19 of TCB's Swiss Radio Days series, Mustermesse Basil 1956, Part 1. This is the Basie ensemble at its high-powered zenith, dissecting works by Neal Hefti, Ernie Wilkins, Frank Foster, Frank Wess, Bill Doggett and others, galvanized by a stellar troupe of all-stars that includes saxophonists Foster, Wess and lead alto Marshal Royal, trumpeters Thad Jones and Joe Newman, trombonists Henry Coker, Benny Powell and Bill Hughes (present leader of the Basie "ghost band"), guitarist Freddie Green, bassist Eddie Jones, tireless drummer Sonny Payne and the incomparable Kid from Red Bank himself at the keyboard.
After opening with Hefti's hard-swinging "You for Me," the band outflanks Foster's "Shiny Stockings," Hefti's "Cherry Point," Wilkins' "Sixteen Men Swingin'" and Doggett's "Eventide" (featuring baritone Charlie Fowlkes) before moving on to Mario Bauza's impassioned "Mambo Inn" and the potent "Blues Backstage" (misidentified in the tray as "Backstage Blues"). Wess is showcased on his original composition, "Flute Juice" (after a fabulous intro by Basie), Coker on Jerome Kern's "Yesterdays," Jones on the aptly named "Eddie Jones' Blues," the postscript to a thoroughly engaging concert.
Even though the orchestra is swinging from fore to aft, it would be remiss not to observe that the sound, albeit for the most part reasonably balanced, is fairly typical of what was produced at concerts in the 1950s; that is to say, not what one would expect from today's superior recording systems. But after the first few bars of "You for Me," one quickly adapts to it as the music transcends any sonic hindrances. A concert well worth hearing for the first time and for many times thereafter.
Visiting Old Friends
Visiting Old Friends is comprised of a series of compositions and arrangements written by Tom Dossett over the course of a long and successful career in radio, television, stage, film and production, embracing a range of musical genres from classical, jazz and rock to country, sacred, blues and Latin. The various numbers were culled from studio recordings, live performances and demos that have been remastered for CD release. As a result, no performance dates or other details are given, nor is there a list of personnel. According to Dossett, many of the musicians were members of the one-time Texas-based Lou Fischer Big Band, while others are friends from the U.S. Air Force Falconaires in Colorado.