Glenn Cashman / UAB SuperJazz / Elliot Deutsch Big Band / Russ Spiegel Jazz Orchestra
There are amiable vocals by Ray Reach on "Making Whoopee" and his own arrangement of Michel Legrand's "How Do You Keep the Music Playing?" while Reach's piano is featured on "Young Lovers" and "The Song Is You." Other soloists include Ard, Mike Lyle (alto on "I Remember You," tenor on "Thousand Eyes"), trumpeters Bo Berry and Mal Pierce, tenor Niel McLean and drummer Sonny Harris. Marsalis solos on "After Hours," "Tin Roof Blues," Jobim's "How Insensitive" and Ard's groovy take on "It Don't Mean a Thing." While the recording has a slight yet noticeable "concert" sound, it is never disagreeable, and the balance between the various sections is admirable. In sum, a consistently entertaining live performance by SuperJazz and its legendary guest.
Elliot Deutsch Big Band
Weeknight Music, as it turns out, is suitable for any time of day or night, for weekends, holidays or any type of special occasion where the music must be sultry and swinging. Trumpeter Elliot Deutsch's young southern California-based ensemble comes out roaring on its debut album and keeps the pedal to the metal through a marvelous sequence of engaging charts by Deutsch, trumpeter Brian Owen and tenor saxophonist Jimmy Emerzian.
That's not to imply that every number is played at or near warp speed. Au contraire. Easygoing anthems can't evince much more charm than Deutsch's "Coffee Time," Emerzian's "Home," or the leader's shimmering arrangements of "The Nearness of You" (on which his gossamer flugelhorn is front and center) and "When I Fall in Love." Deutsch also wrote the buoyant ensemble showpiece "Rhythm Challenge," the deeply-grooved "Yeah...We're Sleeping Together" (a.k.a "Just Friends") and leisurely "Stroll at the Beach," Emerzian "The Jury's Out," Owen the wild-riding "Space Cowboys." There is (alas) one vocal, by uninspiring Kalil Wilson on "Beautiful Friendship."
Besides Deutsch, the band's soloists, each of whom is first-rate, include Emerzian, Owen, trombonists Nick Depinna, Ermeluito Navarro and Paul Young, alto Will Vargas (showcased on "Coffee Time"), tenor Ken Moran, baritone Stephan Cardenas, pianist Nick Paul and drummer Adam Alesi. The band as a whole is as tight as Alesi's snare, the rhythm section sharp and industrious. According to Deutsch's bio, he has performed with Solomon Burke, Bobby Rodriguez' Latin Jazz Band, B.B. King, Lalo Schifrin and Kenny Burrell, among others, none of which would lead one to anticipate a big-band date as captivating and resourceful as Weeknight Music. But here it is, and Deutsch deserves a round of applause for marshaling (and recording) an ensemble of this caliber. Let's hope we haven't heard the last of them.
Russ Spiegel Jazz Orchestra
Not many guitarists lead big bands. Russ Spiegel does, and it's a winner, thanks in large measure to his tasteful compositions and arrangements. Spiegel wrote six of the nine selections on Transplants and arranged all of them, in most cases quite agreeably. Spiegel's "Count Up," "Kangaroo," "Number One" and "Undertow" are highlights, as is the standard "I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart."
On the other side of the ledger are vocals by Michael Camacho, on the standards "I Should Care" and "The Very Thought of You" and Spiegel's funky "Chain Reaction." Camacho's a no-better-than-average singer who isn't well-served by "Chain Reaction" (not his fault, really) and whose limited range is sorely tested on "I Should Care." He fares best on "The Very Thought of You."
The ensemble, however, more than makes up for that modest blemish on its half-dozen numbers, only one of which"The Rub," at over nine minutesoverstays its welcome. Elsewhere, all is in apple pie order, with everyone toeing the mark to bring out the best in Spiegel's admirable charts. Spiegel solos only on four of them"Count Up," "Kangaroo," "Number One," "The Rub"but has splendid support in that area from soprano saxophonist Aron Luthra, tenors Tim Armacost and Dan Pratt, trumpeters Sharif Kales and David Smith, trombonist Michael Boscarino, pianist Rachel Eckroth, bassist Yoshi Waki and drummer Owen Howard who spearheads the orchestra's nimble rhythm section.
The album's title, Transplants, is taken from a passage by Walt Whitman in the poem Leaves of Grass. While it's unclear what it has to do with Spiegel's musical purpose, he and his orchestra must have gleaned some incentive from it, as they carry out their task with awareness and intensity. Even making allowances for the vocals, this is first-class big-band jazz all the way.
Toronto Jazz Orchestra