Trombonist Roy Wiegand’s third big–band release in the last couple of years is by far his best to date with radiant charts by David Stout, Howie Shear, Kim Richmond, Johnny Richards, Rusty Higgins and Pete Rugolo / Bob Russell, and intrepid blowing throughout by Wiegand and his well–endowed companions. Wiegand, who once played in orchestras led by Stan Kenton and Woody Herman, among others, has invited several other Kenton / Herman alumni to the party including saxophonist Bill Perkins, trumpeters Mike Vax and Buddy Childers, bassist Don Bagley and drummer Chuck Flores (there may be others, but any allusion to them would be a guess). And what an entertaining party it is, getting under way with Stout’s keen–edged contrapuntal arrangement of Cole Porter’s “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To” and including first–rate original compositions by Richmond (“The Big Sur”), Richards (“La Guera Baila”) and Wiegand himself (“County Kerry Bridget”), Jobim’s billowing “Wave,” Rugolo / Russell’s haunting “Interlude,” Herman / Ralph Burns’ classic “Early Autumn” (smartly redesigned by Shear) and Shear’s perceptive treatment of Tchaikovsky’s “None But the Lonely Heart” (a showcase for Wiegand’s lyrical trombone). Completing the program are Eden Ahbez’s chart–buster from the ’50s, “Nature Boy,” the ’70s pop hit, “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” and a contemporary work by John Barry, “All Time High” (arranged by Higgins and sung by Andrea Baker). “Face” is a charming father–and–son encounter with Roy’s trombone and Roy III’s flugel sharing the solo honors, as they do also on “All Time High.” Steve Wilkerson is a standout on flute (“You’d Be So Nice”), alto sax (“Wave”) or alto flute (“Nature Boy”), as are tenors Perkins (“La Guera Baila”) and Jay Migliori, trumpeters Shear and Steve Huffsteter, pianist Don Haas (who sits in Kenton’s chair on “Interlude”), drummer Flores and percussionist Michito Sanchez. The theme of Wiegand’s delightful Irish waltz, “County Kerry Bridget,” is tastefully introduced by Don Markese (penny whistle) and Haas (accordion) before Wiegand restates it on trombone. “La Guera Baila” (with splendid solos by Sanchez, Wiegand, Perkins and Huffsteter) is fairly typical of the Cuban–centered pieces Richards wrote for the Kenton orchestra, several of which made up the well–received album Cuban Fire! Richmond’s rollicking Afro–Cuban tone poem, “The Big Sur,” uses some of that same fire to enliven earnest improvisations by Migliori, Huffsteter, Wiegand, Sanchez and Flores. While the first eight tracks are assuredly the strongest, the other three aren’t bad, and there’s enough persuasive big–band music–making from end to end to earn an explicit thumbs–up.
Track listing: You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To; Wave; Early Autumn; The Big Sur; Nature Boy; None But the Lonely Heart; County Kerry Bridget; La Guera Baila (The Fair One Dances); The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face; Interlude; All Time High (72:17).
Roy Wiegand, leader, trombone; Steve Wilkerson, Rusty Higgins, Bill Perkins, Jay Migliori, Ray Reed, Bob Efford, Bob Crosby, saxophones; Mike Vax, Howie Shear, Roy Wiegand III, Buddy Childers, Steve Huffsteter, Ramon Flores, trumpets; Jack Redmond, David Stout, Les Benedict, trombones; Kenny Shroyer, bass trombone; Mike Suter, bass trombone, tuba; Don Haas, piano; Ron Anthony, guitar; Don Bagley, Tim Emmons, Dave Stone, bass; Chuck Flores, drums; Michito Sanchez, percussion; Andrea Baker, vocal (