Skelton Skinner All Stars / Clare Fischer Big Band / Ron Carter's Great Big Band
Griffith's low-register clarinet takes center stage on his Basie-like arrangement of "Baby Won't You Please Come Home," which precedes the first of his original compositions, the Latin-style charmer "Antonia," on which Gavita and alto Matt Wates exchange well-aimed salvos and pianist John Turville frames one of his several perceptive statements. Griffith's clarinet and Home's brushes brighten another venerable standard, "Shine," while Griffith's throaty tenor summons memories of Coleman Hawkins on "Body and Soul." "JCC" (Jazz Corner Comrade), Griffith's tribute to New York City's Birdland, is a medium blues housing well-cooked solos by Turville, the leader on clarinet, tenor Bob Sydor, trumpeter Ed Benstead and bassist Spencer Brown, "Holland Park" a jazz waltz whose leading dancers are Gavita (flugel), Mayne and Home who unlimbers his splendid chops on the fast-moving "Ricochet," which embodies blistering solos by Wates, Turville, Griffith (tenor) and trombonist Mattias Eskilsson.
As noted, Holland Park Non-Stop is for those who appreciate big bands that seldom stop swinging. Even though it took Griffith a while to grab the reins and quarterback his own big band, let's hope there's more where this came from.
Big Band Deutsche Oper Berlin
Premiere, the first of the Deutsche Oper Berlin Big Band's two albums (to date), was recorded live at the Deutsche Oper's concert hall in September 2008. (The second, How Long Is Now?, was released two years later and reviewed here in July 2011). Among several keynotes that make this concert specialthe ensemble's stellar performance is numero unois a guest appearance by Ohio-born baritone Bill Ramsey who has spent much of his adult life in Germany where he has starred in films and on television, logged time as a journalist and produced a substantial number of hit songs in his adopted country.
Ramsey, who was seventy-seven at the time, sounds nothing like it, his resonant voice sharp and unwavering on Nat Adderley's "Work Song," the venerable "Indiana," Bobby Troup's "Route 66," Miles Davis' "All Blues," Hoagy Carmichael's "Georgia on My Mind" and (scatting with composer / arranger Rolf von Nordenskjold) the Gershwin classic "I Got Rhythm." Ramsey is earnestly supported by the band, which unfurls animated solos by alto Oliver Link, tenor Peter Ludewig, trumpeter Martin Wagermann, guitarist Manfred Dierkes and others to complement the unflagging rhythmic intensity of pianist Matthias Hessel, bassist Christoph Niemann, percussionist Andreas Birnbaum and drummer Rudiger Ruppert who is showcased with Ludewig (clarinet) on von Nordenskjold's Basie-like "Brush Hour."
Niemann has his moment too, introducing von Nordenskjold's sunny arrangement of Duke Ellington's "Satin Doll" with a two-minute unaccompanied solo that precedes impressive statements by Hessel and trombonist Friedrich Milz. The orchestra opens the concert with a proven crowd-pleaser, Pete Meyers' superlative arrangement of Cole Porter's "Love for Sale," whose burning solos by Link, trumpeter Greg Bowen and tenor Rainer Gabler reinforce Ruppert's animated portrayal of Buddy Rich. The other instrumentals are Sammy Nestico's "Caught Speeding" (solos by Ludewig, Ruppert and Birnbaum) and Toshiko Akiyoshi's "I Ain't Gonna Ask No More," a mellow, laid-back showcase for Thomas Richter on the seldom-heard contrabass trombone.
It's a pleasure to know that the Deutsche Oper Berlin has spread its wings to embrace a contemporary big band, a buoyancy that is sizably enhanced by the bounty of hearing the orchestra perform for an appreciative audience. In sum, a splendid concert that has given rise to a first-class album by the proficient Duetsche Oper ensemble.
Tracks and Personnel
Cookin' with the Lid On
Tracks: Begin the Beguine; Billie's Bounce; Stardust; Sweet Lorraine; Tico Tico; Goodbye; The Song Is You; What Is This Thing Called Love; It Could Happen to You; Sweet Georgia Brown; Day In, Day Out.
Personnel: Matt Skelton: co-leader, drums; Colin Skinner: co-leader, alto sax, clarinet; Mike Lovatt: trumpet; Danny Marsden: trumpet; Craig Wild: trumpet; Steve Fishwick: trumpet; Mark Crooks: alto sax, clarinet; Luke Annesley: tenor sax, clarinet; Olly Wilby: tenor sax, clarinet; Gemma Moore: baritone sax, bass clarinet; Gordon Campbell: trombone; Andy Wood: trombone; Richard Wigley: trombone; Pete North: bass trombone; Anthony Kerr: vibraphone; Graham Harvey: piano; Colin Oxley: guitar; Jeremy Brown: bass.
Tracks: City by the Lake; In the Beginning; For Steve; Step Up; Coisa Numero Dois; Cal's On; Isfahan; Man Is No Damn Good; Blue Requiem; Stoltz.