All About Jazz: The web's most comprehensive jazz resource

Serving jazz worldwide since 1995
All About Jazz: The web's most comprehensive jazz resource

Big Band Caravan

James Morrison / Tall & Small / Millennium Jazz Orchestra

By Published: July 12, 2012
Playing one or two instruments well is remarkable enough; playing almost all of them flawlessly is akin to superhuman. To the best of our knowledge only one other musician, Bill Prince, has recorded an album (Happy Thoughts) on which he plays everything but drums. Prince's album is splendid, Morrison's even more so. When the Grammy electors cast their votes this year they may have to reserve two statues for Morrison, one for Best Large Ensemble, the other for Best Small Group. Either one (or both) would clearly be well-deserved.

Tall & Small

High on You

Bosco Records

2012

When tenor saxophonist Pete Christlieb
Pete Christlieb
Pete Christlieb
b.1945
saxophone
and his wife, trombonist Linda Small, decided shortly after their marriage in 2008 to form a big band, finding a suitable name was the least of their concerns, as Christlieb measures somewhere around six feet three or four inches from fore to aft and Small is as elfin as her maiden name, making Tall & Small a natural choice. While it was a bit harder to persuade a number of the Los Angeles area's busiest and most accomplished musicians to come on board they managed that too, which meant that when the eleven-piece ensemble was preparing to record its first album, only the position of arranger remained vacant. As good fortune would have it, Christlieb has been a member for more than two decades of the legendary Bill Holman
Bill Holman
Bill Holman

band/orchestra
's rehearsal band, so when the co-leaders approached Holman with a request that he write all the charts for High on You the maestro readily agreed, thus ensuring that Tall & Small's maiden voyage would experience smooth sailing no matter how strong or equivocal the tides.

Besides arranging every number, Holman threw in a couple of his own compositions, the blues-based "Bosco Sez" and fast-moving swinger "Without a Paddle," and they are among the session's series of highlights. The late Bob Brookmeyer
Bob Brookmeyer
Bob Brookmeyer
1929 - 2011
trombone
penned two others, "Minuet (Circa '61)" and "Open Country." Al Cohn
Al Cohn
Al Cohn
1925 - 1988
sax, tenor
wrote "High on You," Sonny Rollins
Sonny Rollins
Sonny Rollins
b.1930
saxophone
the boppish "Pent-Up House." Christlieb's tenor is showcased on Billy Strayhorn
Billy Strayhorn
Billy Strayhorn
1915 - 1967
piano
's ballad "A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing," Small's trombone on Bobby Troup
Bobby Troup
Bobby Troup
1918 - 1999
piano
's "The Meaning of the Blues." Holman scored "High on You" as a buoyant samba; the tantalizing solos are by Small, Christlieb, pianist Joe Bagg
Joe Bagg
Joe Bagg

keyboard
and trumpeter Bob Summers
Bob Summers
b.1944
. Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
1899 - 1974
piano
's "Don't You Know I Care," arranged by Holman as a jazz waltz, embodies a rare solo by baritone Gene Cipriano
Gene Cipriano
Gene Cipriano

saxophone
and further assertive blowing by Christlieb.

Small, who has become quite an engaging soloist, as exemplified on Troup's "Blues," is out front again with Christlieb and bassist Putter Smith on "Bosco Sez," after which alto saxophonist Kevin Garren spars eagerly with the hard-to-outshine Christlieb and Summers on "Pent-Up House." Brookmeyer's graceful "Minuet" elicits cogent statements from Small, Christlieb and Bagg, while "Open Country" has an impressive surprise of its own—Christlieb on baritone sax, paying homage to Gerry Mulligan
Gerry Mulligan
Gerry Mulligan
1927 - 1996
sax, baritone
on a number that came from a group co-led by Mulligan and Brookmeyer. Christlieb solos handsomely, as do Small and alto Gary Foster
Gary Foster
Gary Foster
b.1936
reeds
. "Without a Paddle," a stalwart vehicle for Christlieb, Bagg and trumpeter Ron Stout, is an excellent way to bring the picturesque journey to an end.

Even though Tall & Small is an eleven-piece group (two trumpets, five saxophones, trombone and rhythm), it sounds and plays much bigger, thanks in large measure to Holman's resourceful charts. Even if it didn't, there's an all-star in every chair, helping to make High on You one of the year's most tasteful and exciting big-band albums.

Millennium Jazz Orchestra

Distrust All Rules

MJO

2012

Don't let the album's name mislead you: Henri Gerrits
Henri Gerrits
b.1963
arranger
, the composer / arranger on Distrust All Rules, a superlative recording by the Netherlands' world-class Millennium Jazz Orchestra, may disregard some precepts, but he follows enough of them to ensure that the voyage from Tracks 1-8 is not only pleasant but invariably melodic and normal in the best sense of the words. Gerrits, who also plays trombone in the ensemble, wrote six of the eight numbers and arranged all of them, and there isn't a lemon in the lot.


comments powered by Disqus