Dan Buegeleisen and the Carma Big Band: West Coast Alternative
After a promising start, this studio date by trumpeter Dan Buegeleisen and the San Francisco–based CARMA Big Band loses momentum while backing vocalist Kitty Margolis (“My Shining Hour,” “It Never Entered My Mind”), labors for more than ten minutes through the album’s yawn–producing showpiece, “Goodbye and Forever Miles” (which should have been recognized as the “weakest link” and voted off the playlist as such) and, quite simply, never fully recovers. Besides “Miles,” Buegeleisen wrote half a dozen other tunes (all of the instrumentals), leads with the most persuasive (“West Coast Alternative”) but doesn’t follow up with anything nearly as engaging. His arrangements for Margolis and singer Clairdee (“I Wish I Knew”) are fairly pedestrian (“Shining Hour” is the best of them) and “I Wish I Knew” actually sounds as if it’s pitched too low for Clairdee’s range (but I assume everyone knew what they were doing — or maybe they didn’t, as she sings only one chorus and doesn’t return after Buegeleisen’s trumpet solo). As for “It Never Entered My Mind,” anyone who tackles that Rodgers and Hart standard risks comparison with Sinatra’s version on the classic album In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning, and there’s no way Margolis can compete with ’Ol Blue Eyes. Returning to the instrumentals, “Cavaradossi” and “Mr. B’s Blues” flow demurely along without generating any sparks, nor do the even–tempered solos by Chuck MacKinnon (flugel on “Cavaradossi,” trumpet on “B’s Blues”), pianist Jeff Labes or trombonist Jim Burr. “Rules of the Game” employs a funky rock–style beat with decorous statements by soprano Colin Wenhardt and MacKinnon on muted trumpet, while the grandiloquently named “Sanctity of a Sacred African River” includes bright soli for brass and reeds preceding John Burr’s steady cruise on electric piano. The album’s finale, “75 Beats per Minute,” is not what one would call a flag–waver; it’s more tone–poem than anything else, colorful in its own way but hardly breathtaking — nor is anything else the CARMA Big Band has to offer (CARMA, by the way, stands for Creative Artists and Musicians Alliance, which sounds like an admirable enterprise). In closing, we should say, as we always do when offering a less–than–glowing assessment, that this is one layman’s imperfect view, no more or less, and opinions may vary widely. Dr. Herb Wong, who knows a thing or three about big bands, is quite enthusiastic about this one in the liner notes, and you may find the CARMA irresistible. As for me, I’ll keep searching for another alternative.
Track Listing: West Coast Alternative; My Shining Hour; It Never Entered My Mind; Goodbye and Forever Miles; Cavaradossi; Mr. B
Personnel: Dan Buegeleisen, composer, arranger, conductor, trumpet, piano. Tracks 1