Phil Kelly and the NW Prevailing Winds; Eric Essix and the Night Flight Big Band; University of North Texas Two O'Clock Lab Band
Maria Schneider composed the sinuous "Dance You Monster to My Soft Song" (solos by Hornbeck and Shields), while Vern Sielert arranged Herbie Hancock's Bobby Timmons-inspired "Driftin'" and Don Menza wrote the volcanic finale, "Sambandrea Swing," which was introduced by drummer Louie Bellson's orchestra on the album Dynamite! The engaging solos on "Driftin'" are by Verastegui, trumpeter Dan Cron and tenor Matt Morey, on "Blues" by Shields, Cron, Verastegui, baritone Sarah Roberts, tenor Ben Bohorquez and trombonists Hiroshi Wada, Kevin Hicks and Nick Wlodarczyk, on "Sambandrea Swing" by Bohorquez, Shields, Hicks, drummer Sean Jones and percussionist Matt Hurley.
In a world of rapid and often bewildering change, it's good to know that there are some thingssuch as the primacy of the various jazz ensembles at the University of North Texasthat one can always count on. With Too Two, the Two O'Clock Lab Band adds one more impressive chapter to the enduring legacy.
Lasse Lindgren Constellations
In the Mood for Standards
Swedish trumpeter Lasse Lindgren's Constellations number three: BC (Big Constellation), HBC (Hip Bop Constellation) and QC (Quartet Constellation), each of which is heard from on Lindgren's colorful yet curiously named album, In the Mood for Standards. Curiously named, as the appellation rests in part on the definition of "standard." While many of the tunes here qualify as such, it is a stretch to include Herbie Hancock's "Watermelon Man," Toots Thielemans' "Bluesette," Dizzy Gillespie's "A Night in Tunisia" or even Duke Ellington's "It Don't Mean a Thing" among them, engaging as they may be. Jazz standards, certainly, but by no means all-embracing evergreens such as "Summertime," "Body and Soul," "In the Mood" or any of Lindgren's other choices. To be fair, Lindgren does define every song presented here as a "jazz standard," but omits the word "jazz" from the album's title.
Be that as it may, each number is adeptly performed, whether by the Big Constellation ("Watermelon Man," "It's You or No One," "It Don't Mean a Thing," "Nature Boy," "In the Mood"), Hip Bop Constellation ("Summertime," "Tunisia," "Puttin' on the Ritz") or Quartet Constellation ("Bluesette," "Body and Soul," "All of Me"). For those who are curious, the Hip Bop Constellation is either a sextet or septet, as two drummers (Goran Kroon, David Sundby) are listed, and may or may not play in unison.
As for Lindgren's trumpet style, there's no gainsaying its provenance, as the album is dedicated to one of his principal role models, Maynard Ferguson. While Lindgren can certainly scream like Maynard, he has admirable technique and splendid jazz chops as well, brandishing them at every tempo from laid-back ("Summertime," "Body and Soul," "Nature Boy") to lively ("It's You or No One," "It Don't Mean a Thing," "Puttin' on the Ritz"). If the preference in this quarter leans toward the "popular" standards, that is purely a matter of personal taste, and no indictment of the over-all performance.
Lindgren isn't the only soloist. Others who stir the senses include trombonists Marcus Ahlberg, Jacob Sollerman and Niclas Rydh, alto saxophonist Joakim Rolandsson, tenor Tomas Jonsson, baritone Alberto Pinton and pianist Tommy Kotter (BC), tenor Bjorn "Skane" Cedergren, guitarist Johan Oijen, pianist Daniel Nolgard, bassist Peter Jansson and drummers Kroon and Sundby (HBC), Kotter, Jansson and Sundby (QC). While not every arrangement hits the mark, the various writers must be given an "r" for resourcefulness. The best charts are Lindgren's "Bluesette" and "All of Me," Nolgard's "It's You or No One" and "It Don't Mean a Thing." Lief Halld'en's "In the Mood" starts with promise but can't preserve the mood and ends in chaos.
In sum, an earnest albeit uneven enterprise, enlivened throughout by Lindgren's superlative trumpet and flugel.
Yolanda Duke with the Tito Puente Orchestra
Even though "El Rey," the master timbalero and bandleader Tito Puente, is no longer with us, his explosive Latin ensemble soldiers on, ably supporting vocalist Yolanda Duke on Many Moods, the orchestra's first recording since Puente's passing in May 2000.
Duke, who sang with Puente's band from the early 1980s onward, is charming on standards by Cole Porter, the Gershwins, Errol Garner, Rodgers and Hart, and Harold Arlen / Johnny Mercer, even more so on three Latin sketches and a similar number of original compositions by Domenico Modugno, Neil Sedaka and Stevie Wonder. Duke's strong, clear voice is slightly accented, her rhythmic approach decidedly Latin, a tendency that is indelibly underscored by the formidable Puente orchestra.