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Big Band Caravan

Buselli-Wallarab Jazz Orchesta / Vaughn Wiester / Chie Imaizumi

By Published: October 7, 2010
Buselli—Wallarab Jazz Orchestra

Mezzanine

Owl Studios

2010

After veering slightly off-course recently with several albums devoted in part to backing singers, the outstanding Indianapolis-based Buselli-Wallarab Jazz Orchestra is back in a more pleasing instrumental groove on Mezzanine, profiling the compositions and arrangements of co-leader / trombonist Brent Wallarab. The first four selections, linked together as Suite Storytelling, were inspired by the writings of four masters of the genre: J.D. Salinger, Mark Twain, Anton Chekhov and Charles Dickens. The suite, Wallarab writes, "is not programmatic...each movement is a tribute to influential short stories / story-tellers from my youth."

"The Glass Tree" (dedicated to Salinger) showcases Rob Dixon's tenor sax, "Taballae Ex Terra" (Twain) Frank Glover
Frank Glover
Frank Glover

clarinet
's clarinet, "Mezzanine" (Chekhov) Wallarab's trombone, and "Sketch for Boz" (Dickens, using an early pen name) Glover's tenor sax and Luke Gillespie's piano. The first three movements are even-tempered and mellow—perhaps too much so for some tastes—but Wallarab makes excellent use of color and dynamics to underline their inherent charm. "Boz" is more animated, with Glover and Gillespie's probing choruses presaging its decisive shout chorus.

A second suite, the three-part Suite Influence, is separated from the first by Cole Porter's seldom-heard ballad "Goodbye Little Dream, Goodbye," on which co-leader Mark Buselli
Mark Buselli
b.1958
trumpet
's burnished flugelhorn amplifies its handsome melody. The suite is comprised of Glenn Miller
Glenn Miller
Glenn Miller
1904 - 1944
trombone
's "Moonlight Serenade," Edgar Sampson
Edgar Sampson
b.1907
's "Stompin' at the Savoy" and Ray Noble
Ray Noble
Ray Noble
1903 - 1978
composer/conductor
's "Cherokee," all seductively arranged by Wallarab. Gillespie and Glover (again on clarinet) are out front on "Serenade," Buselli (muted trumpet) on "Savoy," Buselli (trumpet and flugel), Dixon and Gillespie on "Cherokee." The album closes with Wallrab's glossy arrangement of Freddie Hubbard
Freddie Hubbard
Freddie Hubbard
1938 - 2008
trumpet
's "Little Sunflower," featuring his trombone with Glover and Dixon on soprano sax.

If there's a complaint to be made, it is that most of Wallarab's charts, tasteful as they are, fail to generate much heat to reinforce their elegance, with only "Sketch for Boz" and "Cherokee" moving at more than a moderate pace. Apart from that, there is nothing disparaging to say, as this Mezzanine affords an auspicious view of a superior contemporary jazz orchestra at the top of its game.

Vaughn Wiester's Famous Jazz Orchestra

Jazz Tempo

CoJazz

2010

There are a number of things always to be counted on when appraising a new album by trombonist Vaughn Wiester's splendid Columbus, Ohio-based Famous Jazz Orchestra (which isn't really "famous" in the truest sense of the word but should be): the music will be live (and lively), the Jazz Tempo impeccable, the choice of material consistently engaging, the orchestra itself earnest and swinging from the opening downbeat.

Wiester knows full well that every note won't be perfect, but he's willing to accept that in return for the aura of spontaneity and excitement that only a live recording can produce. What better way to open any concert than with one of the great Bill Holman
Bill Holman
Bill Holman

band/orchestra
's classic themes, in this case "Bright Eyes." Holman returns later with its "companion" piece, "Evil Eyes," complementing superb charts by Slide Hampton
Slide Hampton
Slide Hampton
b.1932
trombone
, Ernie Wilkins
Ernie Wilkins
Ernie Wilkins
1922 - 1999
arranger
, Quincy Jones
Quincy Jones
Quincy Jones
b.1933
producer
, Phil Wilson
Phil Wilson
b.1937
,Alan Broadbent
Alan Broadbent
Alan Broadbent
b.1947
piano
, Thad Jones
Thad Jones
Thad Jones
1923 - 1986
trumpet
and Billy Byers
Billy Byers
b.1927
. Bill Dobbins arranged Bill Evans
Bill Evans
Bill Evans
1929 - 1980
piano
' "Turn Out the Stars" as a vehicle for tenor saxophonist Bryan Olsheski, while Wiester adapted Tutti Camarata
Tutti Camarata
1913 - 2005
arranger
's arrangement of the hymn "Just a Closer Walk with Thee" for the Doc Everhart Band (this version features trombonist Matthew Ellison
Matthew Ellison
b.1973
bass, electric
).

Jimmie Powell
Jimmie Powell
b.1914
's nimble flugelhorn is showcased on Thad Jones' "Low Down" and "It Only Happens Every Time," guest artist Art Silva's alto on Quincy Jones' "The Midnight Sun Will Never Set," one of four charts written for the Count Basie
Count Basie
Count Basie
1904 - 1984
piano
book (the others are Wilkins' "Basie," Byers' "Souse of the Border" and Bill Davis' "Indian Summer"). Broadbent wrote "Sugarloaf Mountain" for the Woody Herman
Woody Herman
Woody Herman
1913 - 1987
band/orchestra
Herd, Hampton "Frame for the Blues" (a tad overlong at 12:14) for the Maynard Ferguson
Maynard Ferguson
Maynard Ferguson
1928 - 2006
trumpet
orchestra. Completing the delightful program are Hampton's arrangement of Henry Mancini
Henry Mancini
Henry Mancini
b.1924
piano
/ Johnny Mercer
Johnny Mercer
Johnny Mercer
1909 - 1976
composer/conductor
's "Days of Wine and Roses" and Wilson's sensuous "Camel Driver."

Besides the soloists already named, there are pleasing turns by trumpeter Bob Larson, alto Jay Miglia, tenor Joe Graziosi, baritone Bob LeBeau, guest alto flutist Kris Keith ("Camel Driver"), pianist Jim Luellen, guitarist William Flynn and bassist Larry Cook. Wiester solos once, on "Sugarloaf Mountain." Meanwile, drummer Steve Schaar ably supervises the orchestra's broad-shouldered rhythm section. This is the orchestra's sixth recording in less than a dozen years, each one of which can be warmly recommended. Three cheers and a thankful salute to Vaughn Wiester for helping keep big-band jazz alive and swinging in Columbus. If you wish to see and hear the band in person, it has a regular Monday night gig at the Columbus Music Hall.

Chie Amaizumi

A Time of New Beginnings

Capri

2010

Three years after the release of her widely praised debut album, Unfailing Kindness, Colorado-based composer / arranger Chie Imaizumi
Chie Imaizumi

composer/conductor
has re-entered the studio with an engaging assortment of fresh thematic material to record a second, the suitably christened A Time of New Beginnings. For those who've wondered from whence the next Toshiko Akiyoshi
Toshiko Akiyoshi
Toshiko Akiyoshi
b.1929
piano
might arise, Imaizumi explicitly provides a persuasive starting point.

As before, Imaizumi has assembled a seasoned group of blue-chip musicians from the East and West coasts and points in between to interpret her melodious and engaging charts. One can hardly overstate the conspicuous talents of trumpeters Randy Brecker
Randy Brecker
Randy Brecker
b.1945
trumpet
, Greg Gisbert and Terell Stafford
Terell Stafford
Terell Stafford
b.1966
trumpet
, saxophonists Steve Wilson
Steve Wilson
Steve Wilson
b.1961
sax, alto
, Scott Robinson
Scott Robinson
Scott Robinson
b.1959
reeds
and Gary Smulyan
Gary Smulyan
Gary Smulyan
b.1956
sax, baritone
, trombonist Steve Davis
Steve Davis
Steve Davis
b.1967
trombone
, guitarist Mike Abbott, pianist Tamir Hendelman, bassist John Clayton
John Clayton
John Clayton
b.1952
bass, acoustic
and drummers Jeff Hamilton
Jeff Hamilton
Jeff Hamilton
b.1953
drums
(seven tracks) or Paul Romaine (three). Although this isn't strictly speaking a full-fledged big band, the temper is robust and nary a chair is wasted.

As for Imaizumi, she wastes no time raising her singular voice, setting in motion the far-ranging voyage by expressing "My Heartfelt Gratitude" to her friends and colleagues, for her career and for life itself. "When I was writing this piece," she says, "I was so grateful that it put me in tears." The listener should be similarly thankful that the charming song was written. Brecker is the soloist on the graphic "Information Overload," while "Fear of the Unknown," which commingles sadness and beauty, features Clayton's expressive Arco bass. Hamilton commissioned the well-drawn title selection, on which Clayton's Arco is once again front and center.

A personal favorite is the fast-moving "Run for Your Life," which encompasses volcanic statements by Gisbert and Stafford. "Today," which follows, was written for a Japanese friend, Aya, while "Sharing the Freedom" was commissioned by the US Air Force Falconaires for a performance at the 2008 Monterey Jazz Festival. The solos on "Freedom" are by Clayton and alto saxophonist Wilson who moves to flute to help introduce the shapely "Many Happy Days Ahead" before stepping aside for handsome solos by Davis (muted) and Smulyan. The playful finale, "Fun & Stupid Song," brings Robinson to the fore on sopranino and tenor sax, and he shows clearly why he is regarded as one of the most accomplished and versatile woodwind players on today's scene. As a bonus, a sparkling drum exchange between Hamilton and Romaine precedes a series of conclusive shout choruses that place an assertive exclamation point on the proceedings.

Among her contemporaries, the natural comparison is to Maria Schneider
Maria Schneider
Maria Schneider

band/orchestra
, but to be honest, Imaizumi's charts are as a rule more congenial than Schneider's and clearly swing harder and more often. The most decisive measurement to be made is with Akiyoshi, and it is sufficent to observe that Imaizumi doesn't suffer by comparison. Unfailing Kindness was admirable; A Time of New Beginnings is even better.

Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra

Jimmy Heath: The Endless Search

Origin

2010

In June 2001, the celebrated tenor saxophonist Jimmy Heath
Jimmy Heath
Jimmy Heath
b.1926
sax, tenor
headed westward from his home base in Philadelphia to perform a series of concerts with the then-six-year-old Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra, a tour so successful that it led to a commission from the SRJO for a three-part suite, The Endless Search. The suite made its debut in 2006, and has been presented by the SRJO on three other occasions. One of the keynotes of this generally admirable recording, made in 2007, is the towering presence of Heath himself on the suite and on the well-knit "Sleeves," which he also wrote.

Parts 1 and 2 of the suite are divided by a brief but effective "interlude" underscored by trombone and trumpet leads Scott Brown and Anthony Omdahl, respectively. The interlude moves directly into the lyrical second movement, ushered in by Heath's eloquent soprano saxophone. Heath solos again on tenor, as he does on the first and third movements, his control and phrasing as smooth and sharp as ever. Other soloists on Part 1 ("The Endless Search") are co-leader / alto Michael Brockman and trumpeter Jay Thomas
Jay Thomas
Jay Thomas
b.1949
, on Parts 2 and 3 ("Inside Your Heart" / "Where It Started") pianist Randy Halberstadt, tenor Hadley Caliman
Hadley Caliman
Hadley Caliman
1932 - 2010
saxophone
(who sounds a lot like Heath), trombonist David Marriott, Jr.
David Marriott, Jr.
b.1973
trombone
, trumpeter Thomas Marriott
Thomas Marriott
Thomas Marriott
b.1975
trumpet
, bassist Phil Sparks and drummer (and co-leader) Clarence Acox. Baritone Bill Ramsay, tenor Travis Ranney, alto Mark Taylor
Mark Taylor
Mark Taylor
b.1961
composer/conductor
and trombonist Dan Marcus are out front with Heath on "Sleeves."

It's a shame that Heath couldn't have hung around long enough to help brighten the last three tracks, recorded during concert performances from 2007-2010—Brockman's "Passage Noir," Charles Mingus
Charles Mingus
Charles Mingus
1922 - 1979
bass, acoustic
's "Haitian Fight Song" and Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
1899 - 1974
piano
's "Creole Love Call," each of which has its moments yet falls rather short of Heath's inspiring endowments. After an unpromising beginning, "Noir" settles into a pleasant groove that underscores crisp solos by Brockman, Acox and pianist Bill Anschell. Mingus is an acquired taste, one that hasn't yet stimulated every palate. The SRJO does its best with the building blocks at hand, and there are cogent statements by Brockman, Thomas and Acox. Ellington's "Love Call" dates from 1927, before his band began its residency at New York's Cotton Club (well, this is a repertory orchestra). For what it is, it's fine, and the SRJO gives the bygone era its due. The soloists are Brockman, Halberstadt and Thomas Marriott.

While the SRJO plays well throughout, and the soloists are never less than assertive, the indelible components of the album are Heath's burnished compositions and engaging solos. For that alone, it is warmly recommended.

The Oster / Welker Jazz Alliance

Detour Ahead

Jazzed Media

2010

The Oster / Welker Jazz Alliance consists of vocalist Jeff Oster, trumpeter Peter Welker
Peter Welker
Peter Welker

trumpet
and groups of various sizes, each one doing its level best to enrich Oster's charming, plain-spoken vocals on a series of jazz and popular standards closing with the pensive title selection, tastefully performed by Oster and pianist Dave Mathews.

Oster, who once sang lead for a vocal quartet before taking a twenty-year leave of absence to raise a son, has resumed a rewarding career later in life, even though the chances of his scaling the heights achieved by some of his seminal influences—Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra
1915 - 1998
vocalist
, Mel Torme
Mel Torme
Mel Torme
b.1925
vocalist
, Mark Murphy
Mark Murphy
Mark Murphy
b.1932
vocalist
, Bobby McFerrin
Bobby McFerrin
Bobby McFerrin
b.1950
vocalist
, Al Jarreau
Al Jarreau
Al Jarreau
b.1940
vocalist
, Jon Hendricks
Jon Hendricks
Jon Hendricks
b.1921
vocalist
—are decidedly slim, to say the least. On the other hand, he's a talented songbird with a clear tenor voice, sings on key, knows how to swing when he has to, can scat too, and measures up quite well against his contemporaries (their ranks being rather depleted at the moment).

Welker, besides playing trumpet on seven of the album's dozen tracks (and soloing on flugel on Luis Bonfa's gossamer "Gentle Rain"), wrote the arrangements, and has done a splendid job of it, adeptly modulating the tempos and painting bright and colorful backdrops while leaving ample blowing room for the standout sidemen who include Mathews, trombonists Bill Watrous
Bill Watrous
Bill Watrous
b.1939
trombone
and Scott Whitfield
Scott Whitfield
Scott Whitfield
b.1963
trombone
, alto saxophonist Andrew Speight
Andrew Speight
Andrew Speight

sax, alto
, tenor Roberts Brothers, baritone Scott Petersen
Scott Petersen
Scott Petersen

saxophone
, guitarist Randy Vincent, pianist Mark Levine
Mark Levine
Mark Levine
b.1938
piano
, bassist Chris Amberger and drummer Kevin Dillon. Oster is backed by Mathews, Amberger and Dillon on "Never Let Me Go," by Roth, Levine, Amberger and Dillon on Cole Porter's "All Through the Night." Strings and cello are added on "Gentle Rain" and Antonio Carlos Jobim
Antonio Carlos Jobim
Antonio Carlos Jobim
1927 - 1994
piano
's "If You Never Come to Me," two of the album's three jazz-oriented songs (the other is Duke Pearson
Duke Pearson
Duke Pearson
b.1932
piano
's "Jeannine").

The choice of material is exemplary, from the songs already named to "There Is No Greater Love," "Invitation," "Weaver of Dreams," "All the Things You Are," "A Beautiful Friendship" and "I'll Remember April," each one sung with warmth and assurance by Oster. One has come to anticipate excellence from Jazzed Media Records, and Detour Ahead does nothing to impair its well-earned reputation.

Tracks and Personnel

Mezzanine

Tracks: Suite Storytelling (The Glass Tree / Taballae Ex Terra / Mezzanine / Sketch for Boz); Goodbye Little Dream, Goodbye; Suite Influence (Moonlight Serenade / Stompin' at the Savoy / Cherokee); Little Sunflower.

Personnel: Mark Buselli co-leader, trumpet, flugelhorn; Brent Wallarab: co-leader, conductor, trombone, composer, arranger; Joey Tartell, Jeff Conrad, Mike Hackett: trumpet, flugelhorn; Ned Boyd, Rob Dixon, Frank Glover, Tom Meyer, Mike Stricklin: reeds; Loy Hetrick, Jason Miller: trombone; Richard Dole: bass trombone; Celeste Holler-Seraphinoff: horn; Luke Gillespie: piano; Jack Helsey: bass; Bryson Kern: drums.

Jazz Tempo

Tracks: Bright Eyes; Sugarloaf Mountain; The Days of Wine and Roses; Indian Summer; Camel Driver; The Midnight Sun Will Never Set; Low Down; Just a Closer Walk with Thee; Evil Eyes; Basie; Turn Out the Stars; Souse of the Border; Frame for the Blues; It Only Happens Every Time.

Personnel: Vaughn Wiester: leader, trombone; Erik Gimbel, Larry Everhart, Jim Powell, Bob Larson, Phil Winnard: trumpet; John Vermeulen, Jay Miglia, Bryan Olsheski, Joe Graziosi, Bob LeBeau: reeds; Ryan Hamilton, Matt Ellis, John Hall, Bill England: trombone; Sean Maloney: tuba; Scott Strohm, John Busic: horn; Jim Luellen: piano; William Flynn: guitar; Larry Cook: bass; Steve Schaar: drums.Guest artists: Kris Keith: alto flute (5); Art Silva: alto sax (6).

A Time of New Beginnings

Tracks: My Heartfelt Gratitude; Information Overload; Fear of the Unknown; A Time of New Beginnings; Run for Your Life; Today; Sharing the Freedom; Many Happy Days Ahead; Fun & Stupid Song.

Personnel: Chie Imaizumi: leader, composer, arranger; Greg Gisbert, Terell Stafford: trumpet, flugelhorn; Randy Brecker: trumpet (2); Steve Wilson: alto, soprano sax, flute; Scott Robinson: tenor, soprano, sopranino sax, clarinet, flute; Gary Smulyan: baritone sax, bass clarinet; Steve Davis: trombone; Mike Abbott: guitar; Tamir Hendelman: piano; John Clayton: bass; Jeff Hamilton: drums (1, 3-6, 8, 9); Paul Romaine: drums (2, 7, 9).

Jimmy Heath: The Endless Search

Tracks: The Endless Search (Part 1: The Endless Search; Interlude; Part 2: Inside Your Heart; Part 3: Where It Started); Sleeves; Passage Noir; Haitian Fight Song; Creole Love Call.

Personnel: Clarence Acox, Michael Brockman: co-leaders; Cesar Amaral, Andy Omdahl, Dennis Haldane, Jay Thomas, Thomas Marriott: trumpet; Michael Brockman: alto, soprano sax, clarinet; Scott Macpherson: alto sax (6); Mark Taylor: alto, tenor sax; Hadley Caliman: tenor sax; Travis Ranney: tenor sax, clarinet; Bill Ramsay: baritone sax; Jon Hansen: tuba (5); Scott Brown, David Marriott Jr., Dan Marcus, Bill Anthony: trombone; David Bentley: bass trombone; Randy Halbertstadt, Bill Anschell: piano (5); Phil Sparks: bass; Clarence Acox: drums.

Detour Ahead

Tracks: There Is No Greater Love; Invitation; If You Never Come to Me; A Weaver of Dreams; Never Let Me Go; Jeannine; All Through the Night; All the Things You Are; Gentle Rain; A Beautiful Friendship; I'll Remember April; Detour Ahead.

Personnel: Jeff Oster: co-leader, vocals; Peter Welker: co-leader, trumpet, flugelhorn, arranger; Doug Morton: trumpet; Andrew Speight: alto sax, alto flute; Bob Roth: tenor sax; Scott Petersen, Doug Rowan: baritone sax; Bill Watrous, Scott Whitfield: trombone; Randy Vincent: guitar; Jeremy Cohen: strings; Doug Harmon: cello; Dave Mathews, Mark Levine: piano; Chris Amberger: bass; Kevin Dillon: drums; Celso Alberti: drums, percussion.


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