Pointing Fingers... And Naming Names
As Reynolds composed and arranged every song, a lot is riding on his expertise, which proves to be superior, from the lively curtain-raiser, "Otra Vez Alvarez" (a bow to Ruben Alvarez) on through to the pensive "Reflections." In between, Reynolds salutes violinist Johnny Frigo, tenor saxophonist Stan Getz and vocalist Nancy Wilson, among others, and pens luminous features for trumpeter Victor Garcia and tenor Mark Colby ("Playin' It Cool"), flugel Doug Scharf ("A Benny for Your Thoughts," for teacher Ben Mocini), trombonist Tom Garling ("Border Town") and guest harmonica virtuoso Howard Levy ("A Song for Stan"). While it may have seemed more suitable to have Colby, a close friend and admirer of Getz, solo on the graceful "Stan," Levy pinch-hits quite nicely. Reynolds solos adroitly with Levy on the fast-paced "Elena," with bassist Kelly Sill on "Gentle Is the Breeze" (for piano and rhythm), with alto Mike Smith on "A Song for Johnny," with Smith and tenor Steve Eisen on the assertive "Fancy Miss Nancy." Mention should be made of Reynolds' other themes, "The Gospel Truth" and "Hipity Hopity Funkity," as they are clearly among the session's high spots. Smith and drummer Joel Spencer solo on "Truth," Eisen and Scharf on "Funkity."
Even though Reynolds abandoned the world of music in 1996 to concentrate more fully on other cherished pursuits, namely relaxation and fishing (his nickname is "The Fishin' Musician"), it is hard to believe, based on the music presented here, that he has ever been away. As for his friends, long may they abide and prosper. A few more albums along these lines would surely be embraced with open arms and ears.
The Midland Youth Jazz Orchestra
Have You Heard
Great Britain's well-spoken Midland Youth Jazz Orchestra has produced a number of superlative albums that include memorable performances with trumpeter Bobby Shew and alto saxophonist Lanny Morgan. The ensemble's most recent recording, Have You Heard, readily upholds the impressive standards set on those earlier dates. Even though Shew and Morgan aren't present, MYJO, astutely directed by John Ruddick, carries the day, thanks in part to splendid charts by Bob Florence, Sammy Nestico, Rob McConnell and Bob Curnow, alongside classy arrangements by Mark Armstrong ("A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square") and MYJO's own tenor sax standout Callum Roxburgh ("I'll Remember April").
Whatever the context, MYJO is more than equal to the task, playing impeccably as a unit while showcasing a galaxy of engaging soloists whose artistry belies the fact that this really is a youth orchestra. Alto Alex Woods is outstanding on Julian "Cannonball" Adderley's funky "Things Are Getting Better" (arranged by McConnell), trumpeter Nick Dewhurst the same on Florence's heartwarming ballad, "Tell Your Story." Florence arranged Johnny Mandel's seductive "Emily" and wrote the playful "Pumpkinette" (complete with deep-voiced two-bari intro) and clever "1, 2, 3," a three-movement theme played at various tempos, each with three beats to the bar. The session opens with Nestico's irrepressible "Magic Flea," on which Roxburgh, pianist Richard Morris and drummer Dave Tandy shine. "Berkeley Square," taken at a brighter-than-usual tempo, embodies tight ensemble work and crisp solos by trombonist Alex Paxton and alto Andy Isherwood. Dewhurst, pianist Aled Walker and flugel Nick Dunham are the soloists on "Emily," Dewhurst, Woods, Roxburgh and trombonist Tom Dunnett on "April" (whose brass soli alone is worth the price of admission). Bassist Nick Roberts solos with Dunnett and Walker on "Pumpkinette," while Walker, Dunham and guitarist Doug McMillan share blowing space on Curnow's shimmering arrangement of Pat Metheny's "Have You Heard."
This is by any measure a stellar studio date from start to finish. If you haven't heard the remarkable Midland Youth Jazz Orchestra, it's time you did. It's an experience you'll cherish.