Dave Albert--Brian Hobbs Big Band Love Remembered Eidolon Records 2012 What a bold and unusual idea, opening a big-band album with a waltz performed by a trio. The Albert-Hobbs Big Band does exactly that with For Mr. C," one of several dedications on its debut recording, Love Remembered. Once it becomes clear that the ensemble is missing in action and won't be heard from before Track 2, the change of pace works quite well, as co-leader Brian Hobbs affirms that he's not only a first-rate composer / arranger (he wrote and ...read more
R3: Special Big BandR3Summit Records2012 The R3" in this Brazilian-based band's name refers to brothers Rafael, Renato and Roger Rocha who together comprise its heart and soul. The Special" pertains to just about everything else on this impressive debut album. Indeed, there could be even more R's" in the title, as the pianist is Flavio Rocha (presumably another sibling), Robson Rodrigues plays electric bass and Joabe Reis trombone. But those three R's will more than suffice. And while no more than nine musicians are listed on any particular number, that is misleading, ...read more
Bob Mintzer Big BandFor the MomentMCG Jazz2012 Anyone who has followed Bob Mintzer's career knows that the multi-talented saxophonist / educator has always had a special place in his heart for music from south of the border (he even recorded a big-band album, Latin from Manhattan, back in 1998). While perhaps best known as a member of the Yellowjackets, Mintzer has overseen his own big-band since 1983 (when he was asked by the Brecker brothers to form a working group) and has produced eighteen albums as leader of large ensembles including a ...read more
Kris Berg & the Metroplexity Big BandThis Time / Last YearMAMA Records2012 Until now, bassist / educator Kris Berg, who oversees the Jazz Studies program at Collin College near Dallas, TX, has been widely known and respected as someone who writes and arranges songs for others to play. From now on, he'll doubtless be known and respected as leader of his own world-class ensemble, the Metroplexity Big Band, whose debut recording, This Time / Last Year, embodies half a dozen of Berg's engaging compositions and nine of his superlative charts.read more
Budman / Levy OrchestraFrom There to HereOA2 Records2012 If this splendid album, recorded two years ago (2010), is in any way emblematic of what lies ahead, the long-range outlook for big band jazz is indeed bright and auspicious. Saxophonist Alex Budman and trombonist Jeremy Levy have assembled a group of A-list musicians from the Los Angeles area who glide easily through Levy's elaborate compositions and arrangements with nary a lapse nor misstep, meanwhile swinging From There to Here in the finest big band tradition. Levy, who moved to ...read more
James MorrisonSnappy TooMorrison Records2012 The first question that arises about Snappy Too, the latest mind-blowing enterprise by Aussie James Morrison, is how is it to be filed: under big band" or duo"? The fact is, the album is both, as the personnel consists of Jeff Hamilton on drums and Morrison on everything else, from brass to reeds, bass to piano, even guitar, bass trumpet and banjo. That's no misprint. Morrison, the jazz world's consummate do-it-yourself enthusiast (not to mention musical genius), produced a similarly phenomenal album, Snappy Doo, more than twenty ...read more
Dartstadter Big BandKentomaniaSelf Published2010 Of all the recorded tributes to the legendary Stan Kenton released during the centennial of his birth (2011), the Darmstadter Big Band's Kentomania (it's spelled that way on the jacket cover and disc) is unequaled for one reason alone: it has former Kenton standout Herb Geller as a soloist, the others do not. Geller, now in his eighty-third year, is as sly as a fox and spry as a gazelle on Bill Holman's emphatic arrangements of Indiana" and I Remember You" and Bill Mathieu's beguiling take on ...read more
Bob Lark and His Alumni Big BandReunionJazzed Media2012 As director for more than two decades of DePaul University's superb Jazz Ensemble, trumpeter Bob Lark has seen an endless parade of outstanding musicians pass through the ranks, which makes the first-ever Reunion of his Alumni Big Band a more than special occasion. Simply convening these eminent graduates in a recording studio for two red-letter days must have been a Herculean task, as many have gone on to fame (if not fortune) as working jazz musicians and / or educators in various parts ...read more
Stan Kenton Orchestra/UW-Eau Claire Jazz Ensemble 1Double Feature, Vol. 3Tantara Productions2012 Volume 3 in Tantara's ongoing two-CD series of Double Features, encompassing heretofore unissued music by the Stan Kenton Orchestra and guests, covers parts of five Kenton concerts spanning the years 1971-77 on Disc 1, and presents a dozen never-recorded charts by Dee Barton, Bill Fritz, Joe Coccia, Hank Levy, Willie Maiden and Ken Hanna, performed by the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Jazz Ensemble, on Disc 2. Director Robert Baca's UW-Eau Claire band has some large shoes to ...read more
Nova Contemporary Jazz OrchestraWho Sez You Can't Dance to Bebop?Nova Jazz2010 When last heard from, Minnesota's dauntless Nova Jazz Orchestra was performing alongside the legendary Stan Kenton Orchestra--well, not actually alongside," but as part of the Tantara label's ongoing two-disc salute to Kenton, Double Feature, Vol. 2. On that occasion, Nova was playing (and playing quite well) music written for but never recorded by the Kenton Orchestra, whereas on its eighth and latest CD, Nova turns its attention to themes by Minnesota composers, four of whom are members of the ensemble. ...read more
Skelton Skinner Allstars Big BandCookin' with the Lid OnDiving Duck Records2012 Back in the late 1950s, vibraphonist Terry Gibbs (with some help from his friends) put together an ensemble that became known as the Terry Gibbs Dream Band, took up residence in Hollywood and began blowing audiences away at the Summit, Seville and Sundown nightclubs. The band numbered in its ranks such renowned West Coast musicians as Conte Candoli, Richie Kamuca, Frank Rosolino, Bill Perkins, Pete Jolly, Al Porcino, Charlie Kennedy, Bob Enevoldsen, Jack Nimitz, Mel Lewis, Buddy Clark, Stu Williamson, ...read more
Stan Kenton Orchestra / NOVA Jazz OrchestraDouble Feature, Vol. 2Tantara Productions2012 One of the more difficult aspects of reviewing Tantara's series of impressive salutes to Stan Kenton and his music is knowing where to begin. As on Volume 1 of the label's Double Feature (with Volume 3 already on the street as this is being written), the two-CD set is divided in twain: Disc 1 features the Kenton Orchestra in two live performances from 1959, Disc 2 fourteen seldom-heard Kenton charts by Bill Mathieu (who also wrote the earnest and informative ...read more
Cecilia Coleman Big BandOh Boy!PandaKat Records2011 Among the many pleasant surprises on Oh Boy!, pianist Cecilia Coleman's maiden voyage as leader of her own big band, perhaps the most eye-opening is that the band had been together for only eight months when the album was recorded by the renowned Rudy Van Gelder. Coleman, a Californian who moved to New York City in 1998 and has been gigging steadily there ever since, much of the time as leader of her own small groups, formed the seventeen-piece band in January 2010, landed a ...read more
Westchester Jazz OrchestraMaiden Voyage Suite WJO2010 The heavy-hitting Westchester Jazz Orchestra, one of whose ambitions under artistic director Mike Holober is to broaden its musical horizons, devotes its second album to renovating for a sixteen-member ensemble the music of pianist Herbie Hancock's classic recording Maiden Voyage (Blue Note, 1964). The resulting nine-part suite, with arrangements by Holober, Pete McGuinness and WJO stalwarts Jay Brandford and Tony Kadleck, gives Hancock's themes their due as it adds the color and excitement that only a big band can provide. The orchestra's strength ...read more
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