Stan Kenton Alumni Band / Dave Lisik Orchestra / New Zealand School of Music Big Band
The ensemble comes out swinging on Don Menza's suitably named "Groove Blues" and exits in similar fashion with Pete Jackson's vigorous "Mother Fingers." Rounding out the studio session is Dan Haerle's prismatic "Soul Mates," whose earnest solos are by alto Blair Clarke and guitarist Jeremy Hunter. The ensemble is trim throughout, the rhythm section sharp and well-knit. In his liner notes, Fox singles out engineer Talley Sherwood for well-deserved praise, as the over-all sound is clear and well-balanced. In sum, a splendid second outing by Fox and his able students from the NZSM.
Big Crazy Energy New York Band
Inspirations, Vol. 1
In 2006, Norwegian-born trombonist Jens Wendelboe became a member of the Jazz / fusion group Blood Sweat & Tears, and the debut album by the New York-based version of his Big Crazy Energy Band clearly exemplifies that association. Any devotee of BS&T will certainly relish this lively studio session, which is marked by emphatic rock-beat modulations, intrepid brass flourishes and periodic reminders of yesteryear from Bill Heller's synthesizer.
Besides arranging everything, Wendelboe composed five of the album's nine selections, the brightest of which are the sensuous "Ear Trumpet" and nimble "Gloria's Step & More," the last co-written with the late bassist Scott LaFaro. Wendelboe also wrote "Boone Dog Café," "I Know, Later" (for his son Daniel) and "Seasons Wander" (lyrics by Gloria Rosa). Deb Lyons' breathy voice is engulfed by the band on "Seasons," rendering every other word incoherent. She scats briefly and ineffectively on "Later." As for Wendelboe, his five trombone solos are agreeable but his scat vocal on the charming Swedish folk song "Dear Old Stockholm" is ill-advised.
The session opens in a rock-centered groove with drummer Billy Cobham's "Pleasant Pheasant" and closes in like manner with Lennon / McCartney's "A Day in the Life." Completing the program is Joe Henderson's "Out of the Night," a walking blues with solos to match by Wendelboe, trumpeter Steve Jankowski and Dan Levin on euphonium. Heller's piano is featured on "Gloria's Step," the synthesizer on "Pheasant," "Boone Dog Café" and "Ear Trumpet." Tenors Mark Fineberg and Ken Gioffre have their say on "Pheasant" while trumpeter Vinnie Cutro is front and center on "Stockholm," alto Tom Timko, trumpeter Bob Millikan and tubaist George Flynn on "Boone Dog Café," Timko, flugel Chris Rogers and bassist David Anderson on "Ear Trumpet," Jankowski and Timko (flute) on "I Know, Later," Rogers (trumpet) and alto Mike Migliore on "A Day in the Life."
Wendelboe's band is first-class, and carries out its assignment with vitality and awareness. One's appreciation for the album may rest in part on his or her fondness for the sort of jazz / rock synthesis epitomized by groups such as Blood Sweat & Tears.
Vince Norman / Joe McCarthy Big Band
Bright Future is the second recording by the admirable Vince Norman / Joe McCarthy Big Band, which is comprised for the most part of current or former members of armed service ensembles in the Washington, DC area (no less than fourteen from either the Airmen of Note, Army Jazz Ambassadors, Army Blues or Navy Commodores). Co-leader Norman serves as conductor, composer and arranger while McCarthy is the band's stalwart drummer / percussionist. Besides writing all save one tune on the album and arranging all of them, Norman plays a number of reed instruments, soloing on melodica ("Katelyn"), Bb soprano ("Connect the Dots"), tenor ("Bright Future"), alto and C soprano (Stanley Turrentine's "Sugar").
Speaking of "Sugar," Norman based his originals "Trilogy" and "Katelyn" on its chord changes, having composed both of them while still a teen-ager, then set them aside. It's good to hear them renewed in a big-band setting. "Katelyn," a graceful ballad dedicated to Norman's niece, is enriched by the melodica, which seems closely related to the Argentine bandoneon. There are other dedicationsto Norman's wife, Amy ("For My Beloved"), saxophonist Grover Washington Jr. ("Super Grover") and Peanuts cartoonist Charles Shulz ("Goodbye Mr. Shulz"), which salutes as well the music from the Peanuts TV specials written by pianist Vince Guaraldi.