Swingin' on a Riff . . . Hangin' by a Thread?
Bruce Lofgren and Doug Livingston
Southwest Portals is a series of even-tempered tone poems composed and arranged for his quartet by guitarist Bruce Lofgren. While the framework is more or less linked to jazz (there is some improvisation), the over-all vibe is more folk / western swing than bop or blues, thanks in part to Doug Livingston's steel pedal guitar, which evokes a cinematic "Sons of the Pioneers" mood. Even so, the songs are quite pleasant, the musicianship first-class. The presence of two guitars isn't superfluous, as they sound almost nothing alike, and Lofgren and Livingston are responsive musicians who play their roles with a minimum of fanfare, as do their colleagues, bassist Mike Flick and drummer Jack LeCompte.
This is for the most part music that would be right at home on a ranch or at a country music soiree. As Ed Leimbacher writes in the liner notes, "Prop your footwear up on the porch railing, check your unwelcome baggage on the event horizon, catch hold of that road-tested rain mirage, and drift through this Portal of Southwest Dreams towhatever you hear." What you will hear and appreciate are eight tasteful themes by Lofgren and another "co-written" by J.S. Bach ("Prairie Fugue"), admirably performed by the quartet.
Even though the music lingers on the outskirts of jazz, Lofgren and his mates are no doubt doing what pleases them. And while it may please many others who choose to traverse that path, die-hard jazz fans should look elsewhere.
Tracks and Personnel
Right to Swing
Tracks: Rights of Swing: Prelude / Ballad / African Violets / Scherzo / Finale; Weak End; Hank Jones; Pairing Off; Casanova; Blues for Lopes.
Personnel: Bob Lark: director; Phil Woods: alto sax; Chuck Parrish: trumpet, flugelhorn; Tom Klein: trumpet, flugelhorn; *David Kaiser: trumpet, flugelhorn; Paul Dietrich: trumpet, flugelhorn; Kazumasa Terashima: trumpet, flugelhorn; *Mark Hiebert: alto, soprano, baritone sax, clarinet; *Brent Griffin: alto, soprano sax, flute; *Sean Packard: tenor sax, clarinet; Michael Plankey: tenor sax, clarinet; Adam Turman: baritone sax, bass clarinet; *Andy Baker: trombone; Kody Glazer: trombone; Alex Walsh: trombone; Bryan Tipps: bass trombone; *David Bugher: vibraphone; Kevin Brown: guitar; *Pete Benson: piano; *Matt Ulery: bass; *Keith Brooks: drums; Juan Pastor: percussion. (*Denotes member of the Phil Woods Ensemble at DePaul University.)
Stand Up Eight
Tracks: Fall Down Seven, Stand Up Eight; As of Now; A Delicate Balance; Still; One Voice; Everything I Love; State of the Union; Kid A; Following in Your Footsteps.
Personnel: Steve Owen: composer, arranger; Dan Gailey: conductor; John Davis: trumpet, flugelhorn; John Adler: trumpet, flugelhorn; Clay Jenkins: trumpet, flugelhorn; Brian McWhorter: trumpet, flugelhorn; Todd DelGuidice: alto, soprano sax, clarinet, bass clarinet; John Gunther: alto, soprano sax, flute; Don Aliquo: tenor sax, flute; Peter Sommer: tenor sax, clarinet; Wil Swindler: baritone sax, bass clarinet; Nat Wickham: trombone; Paul McKee: trombone; Dave Glenn: trombone; Gary Mayne: bass trombone, tuba; Steve Kolvalcheck: guitar; Dana Landry: piano; Erik Applegate: bass; Jim White: drums, percussion; Brad Dutz: percussion, marimbas.
With Horace Parlan / Doug Raney
Tracks: Hip Walk; New Life; How Deep Is the Ocean; Joe and Eye; The Humming Bees; Naima; Autumn Song; Sad Waltz; Blues Nerves.
Personnel: Bernt Rosengren: leader, composer, arranger, alto, tenor sax, flute; Bertil Lovgren: trumpet; Tim Hagans: trumpet; Maffy Falay: trumpet; Lars Farnlof: trumpet; Lennart Aberg: alto, tenor sax, flute; Peter Gullin: alto sax; Stefan Isaksson: tenor sax; Tommy Koverhult: tenor sax; Gunnar Bergsten: baritone sax; Stanislav Cieslak: trombone; Lars Olofsson: trombone; Nils Landgren: trombone; Sven Larsson: bass trombone; Hakan Nyquist: French horn; Horace Parlan: piano; Doug Raney: guitar; Torbjorn Hultcrantz: bass; Leif Wennerstrom: drums.
Letter to a Friend