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Big Band Caravan

Rick Holland–Evan Dobbins Little Big Band / Empire Jazz Orchestra / Heart of Carolina Jazz Orchestra

By Published: March 6, 2011
Trombonist Robert Edwards and tenor Jeremy Fratti take their only solos on "Better Go," and they are better late than never, keeping pace with incisive statements by pianist Joshua Bowlus and bassist Paul Sikivie. Elsewhere, Nguyen, LoRe and trumpeter Brandon Lee
Brandon Lee
Brandon Lee
are most often heard, while Zettlemoyer has his moment in the sun on "Gemini," drummer Ben Adkins on "Moment's Notice" and guitarist Ryan Roselle on "Sad Young Men." Adkins introduces "Moment's Notice," on which LoRe uses a choral development before ushering in the more familiar theme, which in turn presages lively solos by himself and Lee. Nguyen and LoRe are the soloists on "Changes," Lee and Bowlus on "Sketches," LoRe, Zettlemoyer and Bowlus on "Gemini," Nguyen (in Clifford Brown
Clifford Brown
Clifford Brown
1930 - 1956
guise) and Sikilvie on "Thoroughfare" (whose blueprint includes a fleeting reference to "And the Angels Sing").

' These young musicians, most of whom came of age through the excellent Jazz Studies program at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, clearly learned their lessons well. The ensemble is snug and swinging, the rhythm section, securely anchored by Adkins, sharp and supportive, the soloists spry and seductive. Beyond that, the charts are invariably bright and pleasing. So it's only a nonet; after the first few measures of "Moment's Notice" that's no longer an issue.

The Mike Cado Tentet

Nimmons 'n' Nine . . . Now

MCCO Records


Here's another group that isn't quite a big band, nor does it aspire to be. On Nimmons 'n' Nine . . . Now, guitarist Mike Cado's tentet bows warmly to Canada's celebrated composer / arranger / leader Phil Nimmons
Phil Nimmons
Phil Nimmons
, now eighty-seven years young, who formed his popular ensemble Nimmons 'n' Nine almost fifty-eight years ago, in 1953. Clarinetist John MacMurchy sits in for Nimmons, four of whose sunny compositions complement MacMurchy's "The Back Alley," baritone saxophonist David Mott's "Spirals" and a pair by alto Andy Ballantyne
Andy Ballantyne
sax, tenor
("Then and Now," "But It's Dark . . ."). Nimmons wrote "It Sounds Like You," "Tipsy," "Carey Dance" and "Just for You," none of which has been heard on a recording in more than forty years.

Besides the guitar and clarinet, the group is comprised of three saxophones, trumpet, trombone, bass, drums and accordion, which is the same line-up used by Nimmons in his original ensemble. The result is a sound that must be akin to that produced by its predecessor; surely, with half the tunes written by Nimmons it can't be far from the mark, albeit perhaps a touch more contemporary in spirit and substance. Ballantyne's "Then and Now," based on the traditional 12-bar blues form, nods toward Nimmons' seminal band while bringing things up to date behind urbane solos by trombonist William Carn
William Carn
William Carn
, tenor Kelly Jefferson and baritone Mott. While Nimmons wrote "Sounds Like You" as a trombone feature, trumpeter Jason Logue saddles up and sprints eagerly across the finish line. Ballantyne's "But It's Dark . . . ," inspired by his son Neil's response when told it's time for bed, is a minor-key bossa that features Ballantyne's alto and Tom Szczeniak's accordion. Nimmons' genial "Tipsy," a loping clarinet feature for MacMurchy, precedes the most "modern" fare on the menu, Mott's "Spirals," which he describes as a succession of musical ideas "which cycle, rotate, ascend and descend." That they do, underscoring Jefferson's sharp, agile tenor.

"Carey Dance" is a robust flag-waver with crisp solos by Cado, Szczesniak, Carn and drummer Anthony Michelli, "The Back Alley" a picturesque tone poem whose purpose is "to conjure images of an alley behind a nightclub in a district of nightclubs" inhabited by "the usual denizens of the back alley: winos, hookers, dope dealers . . ." Jefferson, Szczeniak, MacMurchy and Mott share solo honors. The group wraps things up with "Just for Now," a handsome Nimmons ballad written for the superb alto saxophonist Jerry Toth, on which Ballantyne shines in a starring role.

Nimmons has long been one of Canada's musical treasures, and it's gratifying to know that there are others whose purpose is to help keep his music alive. Cado's quintet has not only outpaced that goal but has, in the bargain, produced a splendid CD that is notably impressive on its own terms.

Tracks and Personnel


Tracks: Stablemates; Slidin; The Eternal Triangle; Second Waltz; The Cottage; Trilby; Fused; My Darling Darlene; While We're Young; Tricotism; Rich's Call.

Personnel: Rick Holland: co-leader, flugelhorn; Evan Dobbins: co-leader, trombone; Jeff Ostroski: trumpet; Dave Hart: trumpet; Doug Stone: alto, soprano sax; Mike Pendowski: tenor sax; Dean Keller: baritone sax; Nick Finzer: trombone; Bill Dobbins: piano; David Baron: bass; Rich Thompson: drums.

Symphonies in Riffs

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