Bob Mintzer Big Band / Bob Wilber and the Tuxedo Big Band / Joe Chambers Moving Pictures Orchestra
What is immediately apparent is that Wilber has an unerring ear for an engaging melody and a similarly precise awareness of suitable tempo. His charts are sharp and breezy, designed to encourage faces to smile and toes to tap, starting with Willie "The Lion" Smith's assertive "Rampage!" and continuing through "Puggles," a light-hearted blues inspired by Wilber's wife, Pug. In between are Wilber's charming tributes to a hotel ("Century Plaza"), a valley in Arizona ("Paradise Valley"), a former colleague, tenor saxophonist Bud Freeman ("Freeman's Way") and the Frank Sinatra / Nelson Riddle collaborations ("The Tender Ways of Love"). These are in addition to Strayhorn's "U.M.M.G," Sidney Bechet's "The Ghost of the Blues," Fats Waller's "How Can You Face Me?" and three more seductive pieces by Wilber: "Please Clarify" (written especially for the clarinet and inspired by Mel Powell's "Clarinade"), the graceful "Chasin' the Riff" and the pastoral ballad "Dreaming Butterfly."
Wilber solos on most numbers and betrays no evidence of decline, playing each instrument with an unflagging energy and enthusiasm that belie his age. Even though the TBB soloists are unnamed, they are quite good, and undoubtedly include alto Cheron, pianist Didier Datcharry, bassist Pierre-Luc Puig, drummer Guillaume Nouaux and guitarist Henri Cheron. The band's two tenors, Francois Penot and Stephane Barbier, solo smartly with an unlisted trumpeter on "Freeman's Way" and one of them is heard again on "Puggles." As a unit, the ensemble summons memories of another topnotch big band from France, that one led by pianist Claude Bolling. The cover design is tasteful, as are the liner notes by Dan Morgenstern. For those who appreciate big-band jazz that nods without apology toward the wondrous Swing Era, Rampage! comes with a "can't-miss" label affixed.
Joe Chambers Moving Pictures Orchestra
Live at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola
Joe Chambers, widely known as a drum-kit mainstay for celebrated artists from Andrew Hill to Bobby Hutcherson and Wayne Shorter, Freddie Hubbard to Charles Mingus and McCoy Tyner, spreads his compositional wings on Live at Dizzy's, shepherding his seventeen-member Moving Pictures Orchestra through a buoyant and colorful program that opens and closes with Chambers' ambitious five-part, four-movement "Moving Pictures Suite," commissioned in 2003 by Jazz at Lincoln Center. It's the capstone of a live session that includes the leader's mid-tempo charmer, "Tu-Way Pock-e-Way," Joe Henderson's intricate "Power to the People," Count Basie's sauntering "Theme from M Squad" (more laid-back than the original) and a pair of engaging compositions by drummer Max Roach, "Lonesome Lover" and "Mendacity," both capably sung by Nicole Guiland whose pleasing voice makes up for occasional lapses in intonation, especially on "Mendacity."
While there seems to be no reason why the Afro-Cuban "Clave de Bembe, Part 1" opens in the middle of trumpeter David Weiss' solo (no mention of that is made in the liner notes), what remains is splendid, consisting largely of a virile manifesto by percussionist Steve Berrios, which precedes nimble solos by pianist Xavier Davis and bassist Dwayne Burno. Part 1 segues seamlessly into Part 2 whose principal soloist is Davis, deftly supported by Berrios, Burno and Chambers. The album opens with the Suite's first three movements: the soulful "Prelude" (solos by trumpeter Josh Evans and alto Tim Green), the robust "Irina" (with Green, Chambers and trumpeter Greg Gisbert having their say) and even-tempered "Ruth" (Burno, Davis, Chambers on vibraphone). Craig Handy solos persuasively on soprano (with Green and trombonist Conrad Herwig) on "Power to the People," and on tenor (with trumpeter Weiss) on "M Squad." A second tenor, Sam Dillon, reinforces Guiland on "Lonesome Lover" and "Mendacity." Baritone Frank Basile and trombonist Steve Davis frame engaging solos on "Tu-Way Pock-e-Way."