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Dave Pell: Remembers John Kirby and Big Small Bands (2012)

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Dave Pell: Remembers John Kirby and Big Small Bands How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Historical recreations of music are nothing new. Every tribute recording ever released is one. In the 1980s and '90s, classical music went through its "period instrument-performance practice" phase, where the entire Baroque, Classical and early Romantic repertoires were recreated using instruments and metronomic markings from the 18th and 19th Centuries. In the late 1950s, jazz was going through an interesting transition that had its genesis a decade earlier in Miles Davis
Miles Davis
Miles Davis
1926 - 1991
trumpet
' famous Birth of the Cool (Capitol, 1957). In 1949, Davis, bored with be bop, assembled his famous nonet and with the help of arrangers Gil Evans
Gil Evans
Gil Evans
1912 - 1988
composer/conductor
, Gerry Mulligan
Gerry Mulligan
Gerry Mulligan
1927 - 1996
sax, baritone
and John Lewis
John Lewis
John Lewis
b.1920
piano
, brought the bebop small combo back closer to the swing era big band, using the brass voicings (including French Horns) from Claude Thornhill
Claude Thornhill
Claude Thornhill
1909 - 1965
vocalist
's popular and successful band.

West Coast multi-reedist Dave Pell has recorded a string of well-received octet albums based on Davis' nonet model. He extended this "big small band" philosophy to a project he recorded early in 1959 that was eventually released as The Big Small Bands (Capitol). What Pell did with the music chosen for this project—that comprises a dozen compositions recorded over the previous 30-year period (typically on 78 RPM discs)—was to have Jimmy Priddy and Bob Enevoldsen transcribe the charts note-for-note.

Pell termed these new recordings "musical recreations." The participants were all West Coast Jazz royalty—pianists Marty Paich
Marty Paich
1925 - 1995
composer/conductor
and Andre Previn
Andre Previn
Andre Previn
b.1929
piano
, trumpeter Jack Sheldon
Jack Sheldon
Jack Sheldon
b.1931
trumpet
, and drummers Mel Lewis
Mel Lewis
Mel Lewis
1929 - 1990
drums
and Shelly Manne
Shelly Manne
Shelly Manne
1920 - 1984
drums
were all on hand. Alto saxophonist Art Pepper
Art Pepper
Art Pepper
1925 - 1982
sax, alto
appears on Shorty Rogers
Shorty Rogers
Shorty Rogers
1924 - 1994
trumpet
"Popo," Miles Davis
Miles Davis
Miles Davis
1926 - 1991
trumpet
' "Boplicity" and Gerry Mulligan
Gerry Mulligan
Gerry Mulligan
1927 - 1996
sax, baritone
's "Walking Shoes." Pepper was to rerecord the latter of these with a Paich-led ensemble that would become his famous Art Pepper + Eleven: Modern Jazz Classics (Contemporary, 1959).

Regardless of the recording proximity, The Big Small Bands could not sound more different from + Eleven. "Quaint" would best describe Pell's efforts and that is no slight. Pell is attempting to faithfully recreate music, almost making a historic document. Pell's touch is a soft one, treating all of this disparate music as, perhaps, trumpeter Wynton Marsalis
Wynton Marsalis
Wynton Marsalis
b.1961
trumpet
has with the music of Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong
1901 - 1971
trumpet
and Thelonious Monk
Thelonious Monk
Thelonious Monk
1917 - 1982
piano
. Projects like this have their place and should appeal to a broad number of jazz fans.

Track Listing: Big Small Bands - Then I'll Be Happy; Smo-O-O-Oth One; In an 18th Century Drawing Room; Summit Ridge Drive; At the Codfish Ball; Jumpin With Symphony Sid; Popo; Boplicity; Dark Eyes; Viva Zapata; Walking Shoes; Mountain Greenery Dave Pell Remembers John Kirby - Rose Room; Royal Garden Blues; Anitra's Dance; It Feels Good; Tootsie Roll; Double Walk; Undecided; Blue Skies; Coquette; Opus #5; 20th Century Closet.

Personnel: Big Small Bands - Then I'll Be Happy; Smo-O-O-Oth One; In an 18th Century Drawing Room; Summit Ridge Drive; At the Codfish Ball; Jumpin With Symphony Sid; Popo; Boplicity; Dark Eyes; Viva Zapata; Walking Shoes; Mountain Greenery Dave Pell Remembers John Kirby - Rose Room; Royal Garden Blues; Anitra's Dance; It Feels Good; Tootsie Roll; Double Walk; Undecided; Blue Skies; Coquette; Opus #5; 20th Century Closet.

Record Label: Fresh Sound Records

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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