Bob Florence Limited Edition / Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band / Dana Legg Stage Band / John Burnett Swing Orchestra
When not leading the ensemble, Burnett, a British expat, is the morning drive-time host on WDCB Radio in DuPage County. He formed the orchestra because of his love for big-band jazz and has managed to keep the group together through good times and bad. The good times include occasions such as this, a live performance at Fitzgerald's nightclub in suburban Berwyn, home to several of the Chicago area's topmost bands. Lead alto Bob Frankich and trumpeter Mike McGrath were members of Rob Parton's no longer active JazzTech Big Band, while trombonist Dana Legg leads his own Stage Band (reviewed above).
As for the music, even such oft-saddled warhorses as "Struttin' with Some Barbecue," "One O'Clock Jump" and "Sweet Georgia Brown" are bedecked in tasteful new finery, complementing classic charts by Neal Hefti ("Flight of the Foo Birds"), Don Menza ("Groovin' Hard"), Sammy Nestico ("How Sweet It Is"), Dizzy Gillespie ("A Night in Tunisia") and well-known standards by the Gershwins ("How Long Has This Been Going On"), Cole Porter ("Begin the Beguine," Pete Meyers' definitive arrangement of "Love for Sale") and Vernon Duke / E.Y. Harburg (the Basie band's version of "April in Paris," complete with "one more time" coda). There are three vocals, two by Chicago mainstay Frieda Lee ("Anytime, Any Day, Anywhere," Rodgers and Hart's "Ten Cents a Dance"), the other by Tony Pons who offers a respectable Louis Armstrong impression (voice and trumpet) on "Hello, Dolly."
Sandke is splendid on his various assignments, as are the band's own soloists, especially Frankich (clarinet on "Dolly," alto on "Love for Sale"), McGrath, alto Nick Mazarella, tenors Doug Stone and Anthony Bruno, trombonist Bryan Scott and pianist Mark Burnell. There's no doubt that Burnett leads one of the Chicago area's most impressive big bands, and this album (whose name presumably denotes the location of Fitzgerald's) captures the ensemble in marvelous form.
Ayn Inserto Jazz Orchestra
Creative Nation Music
Muse (subtitled "Ilham") is the second recording by composer / arranger Ayn Inserto's Boston-based Jazz Orchestra, and it expresses clearly her musical influences while paying homage to them and to others, from musicians to friends and family, who have inspired her. As before, Inserto's themes, even while staunchly innovative, are consistently charming and accessible, which alone raises her a notch or two above many of her (pardon the pun) contemporaries.
The formidable spirit of trombonist Bob Brookmeyer, to whom "A Little Brook" is dedicated, permeates the session, as Inserto proves she paid close attention to the advice and insights given by her longtime friend and mentor at the New England Conservatory. Another close confidant, saxophonist George Garzone, is Inserto's special guest, as he was on her earlier album, Clairvoyance, soloing vigorously on six of the eight selections. Garzone is typically brash and uninhibited, whether on soprano ("Eshel Sketch," "Laced with Love," "Snow Place Like Home") or tenor sax ("Vinifera," "To Michael Brecker," "Simple - For the Band").
Even so, it is Inserto's scintillating compositions and charts that ultimately summon and then command appreciation, starting with "Eshel Sketch," a light-hearted bow to Dave Eshelman, one of Inserto's early instructors at Cal State-Hayward (now Cal State-East Bay). Pianist Carmen Staaf is outstanding on "Sketch," as she is throughout the session (her gossamer introduction to "Laced with Love" is especially moving, as is Garzone's warm soprano solo). The multi-layered "Vinifera" is dedicated to ex-Count Basie tenor star Frank Foster, "Laced with Love" to the late soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy, "Snow Place Like Home" to Inserto's family and friends, "Dear John" to John Maltester who chaired the music department until his retirement in 2008 at Los Medanos College, where Inserto first studied.
With Muse,Ayn Inserto continues to advance from strength to strength, securely enhancing her burgeoning status as one of the country's more creative new voices among big-band composer / arrangers.
Terry Vosbein / Knoxville Jazz Orchestra
Progressive Jazz 2009
When encountering an album whose title is Progressive Jazz 2009, one question that naturally arises is, exactly how "progressive"? The answer, in this case, is progressive enough to enliven and inspire, but not progressive enough to aggravate or perplex. Composer / arranger / conductor Terry Vosbein has reinvigorated a number of heretofore overlooked themes from the creative world of Stan Kenton, added several of his own, and placed them in the capable hands of the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra for a concert performance that shines from start to finish.