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CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

New Zealand School of Music Big Band: Awright Awright

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It's hard to believe this is a school band, no matter what the level. Music director Rodger Fox, a seasoned trombonist who leads his own play-for-pay band, must be extremely pleased and proud of what his students at the New Zealand School of Music in Wellington have accomplished, as their third album, Awright Awright, is superlative from start to finish. The first five numbers, in fact, offer a textbook lesson in how big-band jazz should feel and sound. The ensemble is solid, the rhythm section sharp, the soloists aggressive and engaging. That's not to imply that things ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Rodger Fox Wellington Jazz Orchestra: The Capitol Sessions

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In July 2012, trombonist Rodger Fox brought his Wellington Jazz Orchestra all the way from New Zealand to Los Angeles to record at the famed Capitol Studios, thus confirming Fox's confidence in the ensemble--one doesn't undertake a trip like that accompanied by musicians whose talents are less than exemplary--while producing an album that is superlative from start to finish, underlining the fact that splendid big bands can be found these days in every corner of the world. Those who haven't heard the WJO are in for a pleasant surprise, beginning with John Fedchock's buoyant “Brazilian Fantasy" and ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

The Rodger Fox Big Band: No Exit

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The superb Rodger Fox Big Band has twice been honored with New Zealand's award for Best Jazz Recording of the Year (2001, 2005), and if No Exit doesn't make it a threesome the judges may have to double-check to make sure their ears and taste buds are working properly. While it may be difficult for some to concede that one of the world's foremost big bands resides half a world away from the birthplace of jazz, it is no less true. Trombonist Fox has put together a world-class ensemble, the proof of which is here for everyone to measure and ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Rodger Fox with the New Zealand School of Music Big Band: Rodger Fox Presents Ray Woolf

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Here's a splendid album from New Zealand that works two ways: as singer-with-big-band or big-band-with-singer. The singer is Ray Woolf, described by producer/music director/trombonist Rodger Fox as that country's “consummate performer/vocalist/entertainer. The band is from the New Zealand School of Music in Wellington, ably conducted by the selfsame Rodger Fox.

Woolf definitely lives up to his billing, belting out a dozen songs from the Great American Songbook and elsewhere in the manner of a Frank Sinatra, Bobby Darin or Mel Tormé (without sounding like any of them). Like those superstars, he's not really a jazz singer, but shares with them ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Rodger Fox and Brian Smith: The LA-NZ Connection

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Jazz truly is a universal language, a premise that is proven again on this spirited post bop studio date by two of New Zealand's most celebrated musicians, trombonist Rodger Fox and saxophonist Brian Smith, backed by a blue-chip West Coast rhythm section--pianist Bill Cunliffe, guitarist Larry Koonse, bassist Tom Warrington, and drummer Joe La Barbera (with Erna Ferry, another charismatic New Zealander, adding seductive vocals on two tracks).

Fox, who leads New Zealand's foremost big band, and Smith, who honed his chops in Maynard Ferguson's orchestra, among others, are splendid soloists, and they have to be to keep pace with ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

The Rodger Fox Big Band: A Rare Connection

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Last year was the thirtieth for trombonist Rodger Fox's world-class big band from faraway New Zealand, and the celebration was marked by the release of yet another mouth-watering banquet of swinging, straight-ahead jazz from Down Under. This is either the band's sixteenth or seventeenth album, depending on whether one includes Devil May Care, a session from four years ago on which the ensemble backs vocalist Erna Ferry. I've missed all but the last five but don't aim to make that mistake again.

As he has before, Jon Papenbrook braved the long trip from Los Angeles to Auckland to reclaim a ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Bill Cunliffe with the Rodger Fox Big Band: Warriors

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Having known of Bill Cunliffe only as an outstanding Jazz pianist, I was thrilled to learn via receipt of trombonist Rodger Fox’s latest album that he’s an outstanding big–band composer / arranger as well. Six of the compositions and all of the charts on Warriors are Cunliffe’s, and there’s not a blank cartridge in the canister. Cunliffe and Fox met when Bill traveled to New Zealand in ’96 to perform with his trio and a quartet led by Fox, that country’s most prominent trombonist / big–band leader. Later, while en route from Auckland to Napier, the plane in which Cunliffe ...



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