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Big Band Report

In Tune or Not in Tune... That Is the Question

By Published: April 2, 2013
Before moving to Columbus, Ohio, in 2010, trumpeter Rob Parton was the leader for almost thirty years of one of the Chicago area's premier ensembles, the JazzTech Big Band. And so it was only natural that when Parton became tired of resting on the sidelines and decided to re-form a band, he should return to the Windy City to assemble the components of the new Rob Parton Big Band, whose singular talents are self-evident on the band's debut recording, We'll Be Together Again. As Parton writes in the liner notes, his "Chicago family" is comprised of "some of the best musicians anywhere," and after listening to them play, it would be imprudent to argue the point.

The album's centerpiece is Eric Richards
Eric Richards
b.1953
bass, electric
' 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
Clark Terry
Clark Terry
b.1920
trumpet
(neatly arranged by Steven Guerra and featuring nimble solos by Parton and baritone Ted Hogarth
Ted Hogarth
Ted Hogarth

sax, baritone
); Joe Henderson
Joe Henderson
Joe Henderson
1937 - 2001
sax, tenor
's groovy "Tetragon" (arranged by Michael Conrad); Thelonious Monk
Thelonious Monk
Thelonious Monk
1917 - 1982
piano
's resplendent "Ugly Beauty," a showcase for tenor saxophonist Mark Colby
Mark Colby
Mark Colby

saxophone
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
John Wojciechowski
John Wojciechowski
b.1973
saxophone
, 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
Miles Davis
Miles Davis
1926 - 1991
trumpet
/ Bill Evans
Bill Evans
Bill Evans
1929 - 1980
piano
' 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
Mons
2013

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 scene—a 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
Jim McNeely
Jim McNeely
b.1949
composer/conductor
's otherwise splendid liner notes make no mention of it.


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