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Big Band Caravan

Skelton Skinner All Stars / Clare Fischer Big Band / Ron Carter's Great Big Band

By Published: February 10, 2012
Carter's sidemen hail from the New York City area, which is in itself a form of quality control, a trait that is further enhanced by the presence in every section of seasoned pros, many of them leaders in their own right, whose splendid resumes speak for themselves. Glancing only at the rhythm section, they don't come much better than Carter, pianist Mulgrew Miller
Mulgrew Miller
Mulgrew Miller
1955 - 2013
piano
and drummer Lewis Nash
Lewis Nash
Lewis Nash
b.1958
drums
. That's a rock-solid foundation on which to build, and the ensemble uses it to its utmost advantage. That's especially true on such indelible essays as Sonny Stitt
Sonny Stitt
Sonny Stitt
1924 - 1982
saxophone
's "The Eternal Triangle," Nat Adderley
Nat Adderley
Nat Adderley
b.1931
trumpet
's "Sweet Emma," Wayne Shorter
Wayne Shorter
Wayne Shorter
b.1933
saxophone
's "Footprints" or John Lewis
John Lewis
John Lewis
b.1920
piano
' "The Golden Striker." Completing the program are Carter's sensuous "Opus 1.5" and scuffling "Loose Change" and Freedman's lean and succulent "Pork Chop."

"Pork Chop" follows "Caravan" and "Eternal Triangle," which set the scene with spirited blowing by the ensemble and agile solos by soprano Jerry Dodgion
Jerry Dodgion
Jerry Dodgion
b.1932
("Caravan"), tenor Scott Robinson
Scott Robinson
Scott Robinson
b.1959
reeds
, trombonist Jason Jackson
Jason Jackson
Jason Jackson

trombone
and baritone Jay Brandford ("Triangle"). Carter and tenor Wayne Escoffery
Wayne Escoffery
Wayne Escoffery
b.1975
sax, tenor
are the soloists on "Pork Chop," Carter, flugel Tony Kadleck and English hornist Charles Pillow
Charles Pillow
Charles Pillow

saxophone
on "Opus 1.5." Miller and Carter shine with trumpeter Greg Gisbert and alto Steve Wilson
Steve Wilson
Steve Wilson
b.1961
sax, alto
on "Con Alma," with Escoffery and trombonist James Burton III on "Sail Away," and with trumpeter Alex Norris and bass trombonist Douglas Purviance on "Opus One." Escoffery, Norris and Brandford are center stage on the gospel-tinged "Sweet Emma," Dodgion (alto), Robinson and Burton on "St. Louis Blues," Wilson and Miller on the lyrical "Line for Lyons," Jackson, Gisbert and Miller on "Footprints." Trombonist Steve Davis
Steve Davis
Steve Davis
b.1967
trombone
strides to the forefront alongside Burton and Wilson on "Golden Striker," and with Dodgion (soprano) on "Loose Change."

It's not often—well, perhaps never—that a celebrated seventy-four-year-old jazz musician launches and completes his first big-band recording. In Ron Carter's case it is an enterprise that was long overdue but well worth the wait. Carter's Great Big Band sets its course on living up to that name, and for the most part succeeds. This is a luminous, plain-spoken session whose inapt moments are negligible. In other words, any censure of Carter or his band is essentially bass-less.

The Frank Griffith Big Band

Holland Park Non-Stop

Hep

2012

Oregon-born Frank Griffith Nonet, who has made his home in England since 1996 and become known there as a top-drawer musician and educator (he is director of performance in the School of Arts at Brunel University), has long had a desire to record as leader of a big band playing his compositions and arrangements, and here it is—Holland Park Non-Stop, a non-stop anthology of big-band singularity and swing at its straight-ahead best. Griffith wrote four of the eleven numbers and arranged them all, keeping his well-rehearsed ensemble on its collective toes with a series of well-drawn charts that demand their unbroken tenacity and awareness (for a graphic example, dig the high-powered "Ricochet").

Besides composing and arranging, Griffith solos on clarinet ("Baby Won't You Please Come Home," "Shine," "JCC," "Travelin' Light") and tenor sax ("Oh You Crazy Moon," "Body and Soul," "Ricochet," "These Foolish Things"). Guest vocalist Tina May
Tina May
Tina May
b.1961
vocalist
is featured on "Crazy Moon," "Travelin' Light" and "That's All." She's sunny and decorous, sounding like an updated version of band singers from the '40s (Helen Forrest
Helen Forrest
b.1917
, Ivie Anderson
Ivie Anderson
Ivie Anderson
1905 - 1949
vocalist
, Helen O'Connell and so on), and Griffith's charts bring out the best she has to offer. Even so, it is the instrumental tracks that earn top honors, starting with a loping rendition of Horace Silver
Horace Silver
Horace Silver
b.1928
piano
's jazz standard, "Strollin'" (ardent solos by trumpeter Freddy Gavita, alto Sammy Mayne and trombonist Adrian Fry, animated timekeeping by drummer Matt Home).


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