How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Symphomaniacs is the third album by the San Diego–based Ira B. Liss Big Band Jazz Machine, the first devoted to works by a single composer, keyboardist Dan Radlauer. Coincidentally, it’s also the best, thanks not only to Radlauer’s arresting charts but to the stellar contributions of guest artists Eric Marienthal, Wayne Bergeron, Bill Armstrong, Dan Higgins and Carl Verheyen. Marienthal’s rhapsodic alto is featured on “Future Presents,” Verheyen’s down–home guitar on “Bar Talk” and “Local Loco.” Bergeron interposes an impressive muted passage on “Slippery When Wet,” while Armstrong shines on “Two Times Again,” “Between the Lines” and (with Marienthal) on “Symphomaniacs.” Higgins, who’s listed as both guest and member of the reed section, is a standout on clarinet and soprano sax (“Camel’s Breath Soup”), tenor (“Two Times Again”) and flute (“Between the Lines”). The Machine boasts a number of capable soloists of its own with tenor David Castel De Oro properly lubricious on “Nice and Greazy,” trombonist Dave Stout likewise on “Greasy Kids’ Stuff,” trumpeter Mark Nicholson, alto Lee Elderton, percussionist Scott Breadman, flutist George Shelby and drummer Charlie McGhee spreading their collective wings on “Gazpacho.” Radlauer’s adroit compositions span the gamut from ballads, blues and flag–wavers to Latin–inspired themes (“Local Loco,” “Gazpacho”) and even a Middle Eastern–flavored entrée (“Camel’s Breath Soup”). Radlauer veers off–course only once, on the forward–leaning title selection, wherein Marienthal and Armstrong’s ethereal solos are accentuated by the composer’s unorthodox maneuvers at the synthesized keyboard. The Machine lives up to its name, operating at peak efficiency throughout, with a special tip of the cap to McGhee for his stouthearted timekeeping. High marks all around, which would be even higher save for the album’s unimpressive 45:52 running time.
Contact: Dan Radlauer, 501 Hanley Place, Los Angeles, CA 90049. Phone 310–440–0055; e–mail Rad.Music@verizon.net. Ira B. Liss, Box 16081, San Diego, CA 92176. Phone 619–284–8525; e–mail Ira@BigBandJazzMachine.com
Track Listing: Bar Talk; Two Times Again; Symphomaniacs; Slippery When Wet; Camel’s Breath Soup; Future Presents; Local Loco; Nice and Greazy; Between the Lines; Greasy Kids’ Stuff; Gazpacho (45:52).
Personnel: Dan Radlauer, composer, arranger, keyboards; Alan Pruett, Lee Elderton, David Castel De Oro, Ward Baxter, Dan Higgins, Ira B. Liss, reeds; Wayne Bergeron, Bill Armstrong, Jeff Bunnel, Mark Nicholson, trumpet; Gary Bucher, Vern Ryker, John Klokow, Tim Hall, Dave Stout, trombone; Carl Verheyen, guitar; Lance Jeppersen, Bart Samolis, bass; Charlie McGhee, drums; Scott Breadman, percussion. Guest artists — Eric Marienthal, alto sax; Wayne Bergeron, trumpet; Bill Armstrong, trumpet, flugelhorn; Dan Higgins, tenor, soprano sax, clarinet, flute; Carl Verheyen, guitar.