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Big Band Report

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

By Published: April 2, 2013
This follows a series of engaging themes in which the NSU ensemble shows why Blake would agree to come to Tahlequah to teach and record, as Russell Malone
Russell Malone
Russell Malone
b.1963
guitar, electric
, Robin Eubanks
Robin Eubanks
Robin Eubanks
b.1955
trombone
and Bobby Watson
Bobby Watson
Bobby Watson
b.1953
sax, alto
had done in recent years. Director Tommy Poole has assembled a first-class band, one that is able to master without flinching elaborate charts by the likes of Blake and the others. Blake's up-tempo numbers—"On Cue," "Fear of Roaming," "Way Out Willie," "Shabu Shabu"—are counterbalanced by a brace of handsome ballads, "Trust in You" and "The Song That Lives Inside," the last of which is a shapely vehicle for Blake's expressive tenor. The undergrads have some capable soloists of their own, among them trumpeter Timothy Moore ("On Cue"), tenor Joseph Barger and guitarist Stephen Schultz ("Fear of Roaming"), pianist Daniel Thompson ("Trust in You"), Schultz, tenor Christopher Beard and trombonist Trevor Moore ("Way Out Willie"), Thompson and drummer Christopher Wilson ("Shabu Shabu").

After listening to On Cue, the obvious conclusion is that big-band jazz is alive and well in unassuming Tahlequah, OK, at the foothills of the Ozark Mountains. Kudos all around, for Poole, the NSU ensemble and their multi-talented guest, Seamus Blake.

In Smaller Packages . . .


Jack Mouse Group
Range of Motion
Origin
2013

Jack Mouse, a sure-handed, high-energy drummer who is best known as a dependable timekeeper for groups large and small on the Chicago scene and elsewhere, moves to the head of the class on Range of Motion, leading a quintet whose members share his expansive, something-for-everyone point of view. Apart from his role as rhythmic helmsman, Mouse also writes, and writes quite well, having composed all of the album's ten selections, themes whose "range of motion" is broad and impressive.

Sharing front-line duties are the chameleon-like Scott Robinson
Scott Robinson
Scott Robinson
b.1959
reeds
(flute on "The Breezeling," soprano sax on "Manne-Rism," tenor on everything else) and Art Davis, another Chicago mainstay who has to be one of the most resourceful post-bop trumpeters you've never heard (think Bobby Shew
Bobby Shew
Bobby Shew
b.1941
trumpet
, Marvin Stamm
Marvin Stamm
Marvin Stamm
b.1939
trumpet
or West Coast stalwart Bob Summers
Bob Summers
b.1944
). Completing the rhythm section are guitarist John McLean
John McLean
John McLean

guitar
and bassists Bob Bowman (five tracks) or Kelly Sill (four). The closer, "Loose Weave," is an amorphous "free-form duet" for Mouse and Robinson. If the groovy curtain-raiser, "LaPorta" (dedicated to one of Mouse's mentors, the late clarinetist John LaPorta
John LaPorta
John LaPorta
1920 - 2004
clarinet
) doesn't pique your ears, a visit to an audiologist may be in order. The group follows that with the New Orleans-style "Slow Helen," placid "Winterset" and fidgety "Hip Check" (inspired by former Boston Bruins hockey star Bobby Orr).

"Raucaus Caucus," a rhythmic air with an African subtext, precedes "The Breezeling," Mouse's easygoing salute to Henry Mancini
Henry Mancini
Henry Mancini
b.1924
piano
; the gritty "Mean Street" (written while Mouse was a member of the Bunky Green Quartet); the alluring waltz "Prairie Dance" and "Manne-Rism," the drummer's upbeat bow to one of the West Coat's legendary timekeepers, Shelly Manne
Shelly Manne
Shelly Manne
1920 - 1984
drums
(on which Mouse dazzles with brushes, as he does on "The Breezeling"). Would love to have heard more of Robinson's silky soprano, but you can't have everything. Range of Motion is by any measure a splendid album, well-written (and quarterbacked) by Mouse and well-executed by everyone else. Thumbs-up.

The Dave Young / Terry Promane Octet
Octet Volume One
Modica Music
2013

More splendid music from north of the border courtesy of the Dave Young
Dave Young
Dave Young
b.1940
/ Terry Promane Octet, which was formed more than a decade ago to play classic "Dave Pell
Dave Pell
Dave Pell
b.1935
saxophone
Octet"-style arrngements but has come a long way since then. With Young, Promane and Rick Wilkins ("Soundings") writing the charts for an ensemble comprised of Canadian all-stars, Octet Volume 1 runs the gamut from Dizzy Gillespie
Dizzy Gillespie
Dizzy Gillespie
1917 - 1993
trumpet
to Thad Jones
Thad Jones
Thad Jones
1923 - 1986
trumpet
, Charles Mingus
Charles Mingus
Charles Mingus
1922 - 1979
bass, acoustic
and Hank Mobley
Hank Mobley
Hank Mobley
1930 - 1986
sax, tenor
to Sam Jones
Sam Jones
Sam Jones
1924 - 1981
bass, acoustic
, with stops in between for originals by Promane and Wilkins and the Swing Era evergreen "Stompin' at the Savoy," cleverly updated by Promane. Among the album's more tantalizing features is the label "Volume 1," which betokens the promise of even more to come.


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