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CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

The Rob McConnell Tentet: Music of the Twenties

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To anyone who may be wondering why Rob McConnell would devote an entire album to music that is almost eight decades old, all I can say is, “listen.” Not only don’t they write ‘em like that anymore, they almost never play ‘em this way either. Irving Berlin, Rodgers and Hart, the Gershwins, Cole Porter, Victor Herbert, Sigmund Romberg, Jimmy McHugh and other legendary Tin Pan Alley tunesmiths have seldom sounded fresher or more fashionable than in this dazzling tour de force by McConnell’s spectacular Tentet, thanks on the one hand to Rob’s bright and imaginative arrangements (and one by Rick ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Rob McConnell and the SWR Big Band: So Very Rob

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Few big bands anywhere have a more far-reaching or well-deserved reputation for excellence than Germany’s SWR Big Band, which began life in the early ’50s as Erwin Lehn and his Southern Radio Dance Orchestra. When Lehn stepped aside in 1991 after forty years at the helm, the Stuttgart-based band didn’t miss a beat, swinging resiliently onward first as the SDR Big Band and later the SWR. It was in 1992, barely a year after Lehn’s departure, that composer/arranger/bandleader/valve trombonist extraordinaire Rob McConnell first recorded with the band (known then as SDR), and now, a decade later, he’s back, leading the ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

The Rob McConnell Tentet: Thank You, Ted

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One can rest assured that whenever Rob McConnell enters a recording studio he’ll be accompanied by a group of the finest jazz musicians Canada has to offer -- and that the charts he brings with him will flash and gleam like the Aurora Borealis. No exception here, as Rob and his Tentet pay their warm respects to Ted O’Reilly, the amiable host of Toronto’s premier Jazz radio program, “The Jazz Scene,” for twenty-seven years before his retirement last April. Having written and recorded (with the Boss Brass) two of O’Reilly’s theme songs, “T.O.” and “T.O.2,” McConnell the composer takes a ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Rob McConnell Tentet: Rob McConnell Tentet

Rob McConnell is best known for his Boss Brass, an energetic group playing high voltage arrangements and playing them well. His Tentet follows an amended format. In addition to the size, the arrangements are more relaxed, more thoughtful than the larger group generally has at its disposal. An advantage to playing with fewer people is that the charts allow each member of the group to get some solo time and that's the case here. For example, Steve McDade is front and center on “Con Alma" with a Harmon mute on his horn giving it a sort of other worldly resonance. ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

The Big Band Brass Featuring Rob McConnell: Live with the Boss

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Have you ever been to a concert where the band was blowin’ up a storm but the cavernously richocheting acoustics were enough to drive you crazy? If so, you’ll readily identify with this album, a marvelous collaboration between Rob McConnell and the Toulouse–based Big Band Brass that cooks from the word go but is repeatedly sabotaged (a suitably French word) by its disconcerting (no pun intended) concert–hall ambiance. As a longtime admirer of McConnell’s, and with his peerless Canadian ensemble, the Boss Brass, no longer operative — at least for the present, if not permanently — I looked forward eagerly ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

The Rob McConnell Tentet: The Rob McConnell Tentet

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A sure sign that the economic slowdown has crossed our northern border is that Canada’s leading big band, the Boss Brass, has been superseded (after thirty–two years) by the Rob McConnell Tentet. Not to worry; the Tentet is comprised almost entirely of Boss Brass alums (as far as I can tell, tenor Mike Murley and trombonist Terry Promane are the exceptions), has been playing together for nearly four years, and sounds, for lack of a more appropriate description, like a smaller version of the Brass (trumpet, flugel, alto sax, two tenors, two trombones and rhythm — but no French horns). ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Rob McConnell: Rob McConnell Tentet

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After decades of recording on a number of labels, including most recently a long stint with Concord, Rob McConnell is releasing once again another one of his almost-annual CD's. At the start of the millennium, he is recording for the first time on the Canadian label, Justin Time, appropriately enough.Recording Rob McConnell Tentet in Toronto, McConnell still reminds his listeners of the reasons for his groups' distinctiveness: fresh, swinging arrangements that belie the relatively few musicians executing his richly colored sound. That sound remains intact in his “tentet."Plunging into the fun with a right-on-the-beat start of ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Rob McConnell: Tentet

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Rob McConnell has trimmed his 17-piece Boss Brass to a streamlined tentet. Besides the advantage of economics the smaller band lends itself to extended soloing and to a flexible ensemble swing. McConnell's intelligently spaced voicings generally avoid the thin sound that sometimes comes out of cut-down bands. (The missing horns are most noticeable when a section backs a soloist.) Personally I prefer the open sound of the smaller band, notably on a subtly fashioned arrangement such as “Speak Low." A relaxed, airy “Theme for Jobim" stands as another example of the smaller band's intimacy.

The saxophonists are the most prominent ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Rob McConnell and the Boss Brass: Big Band Christmas

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Having recorded two recent theme–oriented albums for Concord Jazz ( Play the Jazz Classics, Even Canadians Get the Blues ) Rob McConnell and his valorous Boss Brass confront the definitive musical “theme” in a Big Band Christmas. The carols and other seasonal offerings, all expertly arranged by McConnell, are wonderfully recited by an ensemble that is known and respected as much for its tastefulness as for its power and precision. As Rob says in the liner notes, “My approach to all the carols (probably to music in general) is quite traditional. I don’t see the value in Jazzing up some ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Rob McConnell: Big Band Christmas

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The clear precise intonation of Rob McConnell’s Boss Brass lends itself to Christmas music. And the swinging, fun-loving arrangements are a natural for any holiday season. Rob McConnell has put them together and the result is one swingin’ good time.

Robert Murray Gordon McConnell founded the Boss Brass in 1968 as a working group for his talented arranging skills. Since then he’s released about two dozen albums which feature Toronto’s finest, the leader’s valve trombone melodies, and superb arrangements. A leader with a sense of humor as well as a creative nature, McConnell peppers his arrangements with unique harmonic surprises ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Rob McConnell and the Boss Brass: Rob McConnell and the Boss Brass Play the Jazz Classics

Competent is the key word here. Rob McConnell and The Boss Brass have been at their labor of love of big band music for almost thirty years; here, as they Play the Jazz Classics, their long experience shows. The playing is lovely and loving, every detail is in place, and the record is thoroughly satisfying in every way. Lovers of adventure and innovation should look elsewhere, but does music have to be new or inventive to be beautiful? Lovers of beautiful music for its own sake will become immediate fans of Mr. McConnell and his merry brassters. If you wish ...



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