James Morrison / Tall & Small / Millennium Jazz Orchestra
The fast-paced opener, from which the album derives its name, is a well-knit groover with solos to match by baritone Job Helmers, trombonist Vincent Veneman and drummer Klaas van Donkersgoed. "Threepression," which ensues, is, Gerrits writes, "a combination of two [ideas]: three-quarter time and depression." The somber introduction leads to a randomly discordant climax, which is as far "out" as Gerrits ever strays. Gerrits wrote the freewheeling "Easy Job" as a showcase for Helmers' baritone, and arranged Ray Noble's engaging ballad "The Very Thought of You" to feature the excellent pianist Dirk Balthaus. Balthaus composed the saucy "B-Tango," on which he solos with soprano saxophonist Volker Winck. The dynamic "Eleven-Seven" marks the date of Gerrits' marriage, while "Starlight" is based on the well-known standard "Stella by Starlight." Winck (tenor) solos with trumpeter Jan-Willem te Kiefte on "Eleven-Seven," with van Donkersgoed on "Stella." He's splendid throughout, as are his colleagues. Gerrits and the orchestra wrap things up with the brassy and clever "Factory Reset" whose exuberant solos are by trombonist Veneman and alto Gerlo Hesselink.
Although none of the eight numbers runs for more than ten minutes, the first half-dozen come close. "The Very Thought of You" clocks in at 6:17, "Factory Reset" at 6:53, producing an over-all playing time bordering on sixty-eight minutes, almost none of which is unrewarding thanks to Gerrits' seductive charts and a letter-perfect performance by the MJO under conductor Joan Reinders. There is nothing to "distrust" here aside from an ambiguous title that may dissuade anyone from assuming that Distrust All Rules embodies anything other than straightforward, swinging big-band jazz of the highest caliber.
Aschaffenburger Big Band
A new recording (the second) by Germany's Aschaffenburger Big Band may not seem especially enticing to the average listener until three pivotal words are added: "Featuring Ernie Watts." Watts, one of the West Coast's premier saxophonists for more than four decades who burst on the scene in the mid-60s as a member of the superlative Buddy Rich Big Band and later played with Oliver Nelson and Charlie Haden's Grammy Award-winning Quartet West, is a first-call studio musician who logged twenty years with The Tonight Show band led by Doc Severinsen and has produced almost as many albums as leader of his own groups. That's what is known as an impressive resumé.
On Second Take, which was recorded in 2002, Watts, playing only tenor sax, shows his consummate virtuosity on four numbers including his own "Joyous Reunion," adeptly arranged by Mike Crotty. The others are Bird's "Au Privave," Peter Linhart's "My Noise" and an unaccompanied two-minute finale, "Second Take," which fades gently into the sunset with Watts still wailing. Linhart, the ensemble's leader, adds another strong tenor voice on Glenn Miller's venerable "Moonlight Serenade" (agreeably updated by Bob Mintzer). There are several other engaging solos along the way, most notably by pianist Harald Kern, flugel Christoph Lewandowski ("The Song Is You"), guitarist Jan Sturmer ("Au Privave,' Linhart's funky "Hip-Hop-Otamus"), Lewandowski and soprano Markus Lihocky (Maria Schneider's "Last Season") and alto Andreas Wojtanowitsch (the TV-themed parody "Agent 002"). Drummer Jan Wilk (who wrote and arranged "Agent 002"), pianist Kern, guitarist Sturmer, bassist Robert Oursin and percussionist Piesba Supertino comprise a sturdy and supportive rhythm section. Rounding out the tasteful program is drummer Dave Weckl's sunny"Festival de Ritmo," splendidly scored by Mark Taylor (who does the same for "The Song Is You").
Even without Watts, Second Take would be a first-rate big-band album, as the Aschaffensburger ensemble is solidly impressive, even more so than on its admirable debut album, Bluesin' for a Cruisin' (which featured alto saxophonist Charlie Mariano), in 1996. Watts helps make this second outing even more captivating and memorable than the first.
University of Kentucky
Go! The Music of Bob Mintzer