Stan Kenton-NOVA Jazz Orchestra / Baker's Dozen Big Band / Danny D'Imperio and the Bloviators
Solos for the most part are left in the capable hands of trumpeters Greg Gisbert and Andy Gravish, alto Gary Pribek, tenor Ralph Lalama, trombonist John Mosca and pianist Hod O'Brien, each of whom responds impressively whenever called upon. Pribek, a Parker disciple who is one of D'Imperio's particular favorites, is showcased on an easygoing version of Sammy Cahn / Jule Styne's "It's Magic." Guitarist Steve Brown adds another voice (and solos as well) on "It's Love" and "Blue Bird." Trombonist Early Anderson, who appears only on the two renditions of "Ultimate Rejection," is, according to D'Imperio, "presumed deceased," but a web search found him alive and busy at the Westwood Music Studios in New Jersey.
The rhythm section, with D'Imperio and O'Brien leading the way, is always alert and in control. As for the bassist, he remains a mystery, as there's no way of knowing whether "Queeg" is an assumed name for Dave Shapiro or other bassists who have worked with the group. D'Imperio, who is seldom sober (pun intended) and may have written the liner notes with tongue in cheek, says Queeg is "a troglodyte [well, he spells it "trogolidyte"] who, in December 2010, was found frozen solid in his hovel in West Townshend, Vermont." The truth may never be known. What is undeniably true is that Bloviators and Alcohol do mix, and that D'Imperio and his mates have produced a superlative album that sparkles from end to end.
University of Missouri Concert Jazz Band
Missouri's long and storied jazz history, which had its origins in Kansas City almost a hundred years ago, continues today with a fairly active jazz scene in that city as well as in a number of institutions of higher learning including the University of Missouri at Columbia, whose latest recording, Tunnel Vision, is described on its cover as "a collection of new music." That it certainly is, encompassing eleven fresh compositions, five of which were written by UM students, two more by the Concert Band's director, Dr. Arthur White, and one each by guest artists Bobby Watson, who leads the Jazz Studies department at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance, and UM alum and Kansas City stalwart Mike Metheny.
The various themes run the gamut from straight-ahead to somber, passionate to playful, twelve tone opus to down-home blues, rhythmic Afro-Cuban to choppy fusionin other words, enough changes of pace and temperament to invite and sustain almost anyone's interest and attention. Alto saxophonist Watson solos adroitly on four numbers, flugelhornist Metheny (yes, he's Pat's brother) on two, while White weighs in with scorching alto broadsides on Paul Hanson's soulful "Rite of Scorpio" and lead trumpeter Michael Rabadan's light-hearted send-up of college fight songs, "Go Mizzou!" Rabadan is a UM student, as are trombonist Matt Schmitz ("Back to Business"), guitarist Mike Strausbaugh ("Race to the Clouds"), vibraphonist Skip Thompson ("Refractions") and Patrick Clark ("After Hours").
The band opens in straight-on form on "Business" (solos by Watson, Metheny and Schmitz) before veering southward for White's even-tempered Afro-Cuban treatise, "Tunnel Vision" (which showcases Thompson, tenor Dirk Downing and the group's all-freshman rhythm section: pianist Grace Lyden, bassist Louie Pagan, drummer Will Lyons). "Race to the Clouds," featuring Strausbaugh's screeching guitar, was inspired by the music of Frank Zappa and others, which is all that need be said. The band regains its balance to some extent on "Refractions," which "creates an atmosphere of stasis and transformation," it says here, to reinforce a nice solo by alto Michael Metcalf. Watson solos again on White's earnest "Elegy for Debbie," Lyden, trumpeter Annie Linders and baritone Sarah Carney on Paul Seitz' twelve tone endeavor, "Six of One . . ."
"Scorpio," a study in fusion influenced by Jimi Hendrix and Michael Brecker, enfolds an agile solo by White, while trombonist David Witter and pianist Josiah Bryan share the spotlight on the beguiling "After Hours." Metheny is front and center with alto Ryan Meinkoth on Metheny's undulating "Attitude Blues," which precedes "Go Mizzou!" (on which Watson and White trade alto volleys) and Watson's enchanting "Appointment in Milano," wherein he solos perceptively with Witter and Bryan. If there were any doubts that big-band jazz is alive and well in Missouri, Tunnel Vision should lay them decisively to rest.
Vol. 7, The Next Generation / Vol. 9, Originals