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Big Band Report

From Charlie Christian to Charlie Parker

By Published: September 4, 2012
I got to thinking as I listened to them on headphones recently while working out that drummer Danny DImperio, who earned his stripes with the likes of Woody Herman
Woody Herman
Woody Herman
1913 - 1987
band/orchestra
and Maynard Ferguson
Maynard Ferguson
Maynard Ferguson
1928 - 2006
trumpet
, among others, recorded two of the more electrifying big-band albums of the last decade or so, Big Band Bloviation, Vols 1 and 2, and that no more than a handful of big-band enthusiasts may even be aware of their existence. I do know it took me forever to find copies (and I'm supposed to know what I'm doing), and to this day I couldn't tell anyone without doing any research where to find them. I can't speak to D'Imperio's motivation except to say that it obviously doesn't include record sales. Nevertheless, he has produced a pair of albums that beyond a doubt deserve to be widely heard, as they embody the finest elements of big-band jazz performed by musicians whose creds are beyond reproach. I don't know how D'Imperio persuaded so many topnotch artists to perform as sidemen in his ensemble; I'm only happy he did.

To begin with, any trumpet section led by the indomitable Dave Stahl
Dave Stahl
b.1949
is guaranteed to earn a blue ribbon, and when it embodies such other standouts as Greg Gisbert, Joe Magnarelli
Joe Magnarelli
Joe Magnarelli
b.1960
trumpet
, Chris Persad Group, The Dautaj, Marcus Gilmore , Coquito, Fri, Dennis Dotson
Dennis Dotson
b.1946
and Glenn Drewes, so much the better. In the reed section, you won't find a sharper or more engaging tenor saxophone soloist than Eric Alexander
Eric Alexander
Eric Alexander
b.1968
sax, tenor
(dig his breathtaking two-minute introduction to Tadd Dameron
Tadd Dameron
Tadd Dameron
1917 - 1965
arranger
's "Good Bait" on Vol. 1), while award-winning baritone Gary Smulyan
Gary Smulyan
Gary Smulyan
b.1956
sax, baritone
and longtime D'Imperio teammate Gary Pribek on alto more than hold their own in the ad-lib department. Tenors Lew Tabackin
Lew Tabackin
Lew Tabackin
b.1940
sax, tenor
and Ralph Lalama
Ralph Lalama
Ralph Lalama
b.1951
saxophone
sit in briefly on Vol. 2. Trombones? How about John Mosca, Larry Farrell, Bruce Eidem and Jason Jackson
Jason Jackson
Jason Jackson

trombone
. There are no lemons in that bunch. Turning to the rhythm section, all that need be said is that the lead accompanist is pianist Barry Harris
Barry Harris
Barry Harris
b.1929
piano
. Guitarist Peter Bernstein
Peter Bernstein
Peter Bernstein
b.1967
guitar
is there too, as are D'Imperio and bassist Peter Mack.

Impressive as the ensemble and soloists are, D'Imperio's choice of material is arguably even more so, much like delicious frosting on a well-baked cake. Besides "Good Bait," the selections on Vol. 1 include Willie Maiden
Willie Maiden
b.1928
's "Three More Foxes" (scorching solos courtesy of Persad, Magnarelli and Gisbert), bassist Sam Jones
Sam Jones
Sam Jones
1924 - 1981
bass, acoustic
' irresistible "Del Sasser," Don Sebesky
Don Sebesky
b.1937
arranger
's marvelous arrangement of "Danny Boy" (a vehicle for Stahl's Maynard-like trumpet), Wes Montgomery
Wes Montgomery
Wes Montgomery
1925 - 1968
guitar
's "Four on Six," Alan Broadbent
Alan Broadbent
Alan Broadbent
b.1947
piano
's "Adam's Apple," Bird's "Red Cross" and Clifford Brown
Clifford Brown
Clifford Brown
1930 - 1956
trumpet
's "Daahoud." Vol. 2 opens with Phil Kelly
Phil Kelly
Phil Kelly
b.1937
composer/conductor
's "Sweet Georgia Upside Down," which precedes Frank Loesser's "Brotherhood of Man" (nicely arranged by Tony Klatko), the standard "Come Rain or Come Shine," Diz's "Groovin' High," Mike Abene's classic "Fox Hunt," Bill Stapleton's "Bill's Blues," Lee Morgan
Lee Morgan
Lee Morgan
1938 - 1972
trumpet
's delightful waltz, "Ceora," and Parker's lyrical "Yardbird Suite." Vol. 1 and tracks 4, 7 and 8 on Vol. 2 were recorded in October 2001, the other tracks on Vol. 2 in November 2003. And everything sounds as though it could have been recorded in the last week or so. This isn't meant to be a review (that has already been done) but more a reminder that there are at least a couple of terrific big-band albums out there somewhere that you may not have heard but definitely should.

And that's it for now. Until next time, keep swingin' . . . !

New and Noteworthy

1. James Morrison, Snappy Too (Morrison Records)

2. Aschaffenburger Big Band, Second Take (Main-Echo)

3. Stan Kenton / U Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Double Feature, Vol 3 (Tantara Productions)

4. JazzMN Big Band, Enriching Life with Jazz (Self Published)

5. NYJO, A Christmas Carol in Six Movements (Stanza Music)

6. Alon Yavnai / NDR Big Band, Shir Ahava (NDR)

7. Landes Jugend Orchester Bayern, Wie Heisst der Typ? (Self Published)

8. Millennium Jazz Orchestra, Distrust All Rules (MJO>

9. Big Band Burghausen, Blue Truth (B'Jazz)

10. Red Bank Jazz Orchestra, Strike Up the Band! (Hip City Jazz)

11. University Big Band, Stompin' at the University (Cat Sound Records)

12. Kansas City Jazz Orchestra, Live on the Plaza (KCJO Records)

13. Harry Smallenburg Jazz Ensemble, Just What I Was Thinking (Self Published)

14. Eyal Vilner, Introducing the Eyal Vilner Big Band (Gut String Records)

15. University of Northern Iowa Jazz Band One, Let Go (Self Published)


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