The easy-going tuba saunter and its accompanying trumpet line make Lester Bowie’s Brass Fantasy unmistakably easy to spot. Easy to love, too. The leader’s unique vocalized trumpet antics provide comedy relief; however, Bowie’s emphasis remains on entertaining his audience through a variety of options. The Odyssey Of Funk & Popular Music, Vol. 1 incorporates R&B, doo-wop, opera, fluffy pop, punk rock, showy balladry, and rap in a jazz setting. The message, however, is simply that music is universal and speaks to all. For information about the trumpeter, there’s a pointer to Bret Arenson’s biography of Lester Bowie at http://www.allaboutjazz.com/pocket.htm .
Besides Bowie, solo voices on the album include trombonist Luis Bonilla, French horn player Vincent Chancey, and trombone player Joshua Roseman. Doing what they do best, Bowie’s Brass Fantasy rolls through a traditional big band arrangement of "The Birth of the Blues," a slow dance presentation of "If You Don’t Know Me By Now," and a doo-wop rock ‘n’ roll take on "In the Still of the Night." Brother Joseph Bowie guests on "Next" with a percussive vocal approach that he wraps around a heartwarming message concerning Art and our future. Another emotional well is tapped on "Don’t Cry for Me Argentina," as the ensemble contrasts soulful outpouring with flippant rhythms. An imaginative two-trombone conversation leads to Ravi Best’s hot trumpet solo and a turnaround to the ballad’s beautiful melody. The Spice Girls’ "Two Become One" is another lush ballad that features Joshua Roseman’s powerful trombone. Marilyn Manson’s "Beautiful People," with its eerie opening and thunderous helter-skelter, scary free-for-all, is virtually tasteless, but brings in an important lesson through its shock value. The Brass Fantasy’s session is enjoyable and unique. Recommended.
Personnel: Lester Bowie- trumpet; Joseph "Mac" Gollehon- trumpet; Ravi Best- trumpet; Gerald Brazel- trumpet; Bob Stewart- tuba; Vincent Chancey- French horn; Luis Bonilla- trombone; Joshua Roseman- trombone; Gary Valente- trombone; Vinnie Johnson- drums; Victor See Yuen- percussion; Dean Bowman- vocals on "Notorious Thugs"; Joseph Bowie- vocals and trombone on "Next".