In Tune or Not in Tune... That Is the Question
The album's centerpiece is Eric Richards' picturesque three-part "Fantasy for Trumpet and Jazz Orchestra," a bracing fifteen-minute suite on which Parton is featured on trumpet with guitarist Mike Pinto and drummer Bob Rummage (Movement 1, "Gold"), on flugelhorn with trombonist Tom Garling ("Copper"), and on trumpet again with Rummage, trombonist Tim Coffman and fellow trumpeters BJ Cord and Victor Garcia ("Silver"). The "Fantasy" was a challenge, Parton writes, as it "demands the precision and range of a lead player, the improvisational abilities of a jazz player and the technique of a classical player." There aren't many trumpeters capable of wearing so many hats; Parton is one of the few who can.
Richards' opus is preceded by "Serenade to a Bus Seat," Parton's buoyant tribute to trumpeter Clark Terry (neatly arranged by Steven Guerra and featuring nimble solos by Parton and baritone Ted Hogarth); Joe Henderson's groovy "Tetragon" (arranged by Michael Conrad); Thelonious Monk's resplendent "Ugly Beauty," a showcase for tenor saxophonist Mark Colby arranged by Joe Policastro, and Cole Porter's "I Love You," arranged by and featuring alto Chris Madsen with Parton on trumpet. Tenor John Wojciechowski, a former standout at Western Michigan University who solos astutely on "Serenade" and "Tetragon," is heard from again on Garling's rhythmically persuasive "Coda" and (with Parton on flugel) the album's title song, "We'll Be Together Again." Parton (trumpet) and pianist Kevin O'Connell share solo honors on Miles Davis / Bill Evans' soft-spoken "Blue in Green," as do trumpeter Garcia and bassist Stewart Miller on the romping finale, Johnny Mercer's "I Remember You."
Welcome back to Chicago, Rob. And welcome, Rob Parton Big Band. We hope you'll be together again for at least another thirty-year run.
Swiss Jazz Orchestra
Lucidity, the most recent album by the metronomic Swiss Jazz Orchestra, which runs, if you'll pardon the blatant pun, like clockwork, is comprised of half a dozen compositions and arrangements by pianist Philip Henzi and one more co-written by Henzi and Gregor Hilbe. To help ensure quality control, the SJO invited the great Belgian composer / arranger / trumpeter Bert Joris to be its guest conductor. While it's impossible to say how the ensemble might have fared without his guidance, the guess is that its performance would have been more than satisfactory.
Be that as it may, Joris presides over a series of varied and engaging themes that lend the orchestra numerous opportunities to shine, which it does in every instance. The word "themes" is used because Henzi's music is thematic: "Losing Lucidity" denotes "the loss of control in a dream-like stage"; "A Chaser" was "inspired by a dream in which random images and episodes follow each other at high speed"; "Figment" traces "a nocturnal scenea lake, a lighthouse, a deserted playgound," and so on. The album closes with the entirely dissimilar and esoteric "Figment (Remix)," co-written by Henzi and Hilbe (and including what sounds like a turntable). This may have been added late, as pianist Jim McNeely's otherwise splendid liner notes make no mention of it.