Bassist Jim Widner formed his band in 1987 to carry on the legacy of summer jazz camps established by bandleader Stan Kenton in the early '60s. Since then the band has added touring and recording to its resume; And the Beat Goes On, the ensemble's sixth CD for the Chase Music Group, was recorded in June 2012 to commemorate its twenty-fifth anniversary. That's quite a long time in big-band years, especially when one takes into account deaths and other personnel changes; a second all-star group could be formed simply by holding a Widner band reunion. Until that ...read more
Bassist Jim Widner, who set the bar incredibly high on his earlier albums as leader of the Jim Widner Big Band (there have been four), clears it handily again on Out of This World, whose name graphically underscores the ensemble's impressive strength and solidarity as well as the album's abundance of superlative charts and hair-raising solos. There are no poll-winners on the premises, simply a group of anonymous blue-collar workers who park their egos at the door and strive together to create bright and tasteful music that speaks eloquently to one's heart and soul. Their success, from this observer's vantage ...read more
Something was bothering me as I listened to “Juba,” the adrenalizing opening track on the fourth and most recent album by bassist Jim Widner’s world-class big band. It was Phil DeGreg’s piano. Not the comping—Phil’s too capable for that—but the piano itself, unusually clanky and far too prominent in the mix. Rather than chaperoning quietly in the background, the piano was drawing attention to itself—never a good sign—as alto saxophonist Dave Pietro and trumpeter Dave Scott soloed.
This was true to some extent, I found, throughout the album, which is certainly no fault of Phil’s. And we ...read more
I first stumbled across bassist Jim Widner’s all–star big band about three years ago, and what a fortunate mishap that was. Rides Again, the band’s third recording and first in front of an audience (at Drury College in Springfield, MO), is as breathtaking as the previous two, and they were nothing short of spectacular. This is a band with power and panache to spare, and Widner’s seasoned campaigners can make an appetizing banquet out of any scraps of music set before them. Among those “scraps” are three incandescent compositions by saxophonist Kim Richmond and another by trombonist Paul McKee along ...read more