Tom Boras, perhaps best known as an educator (he teaches at New York University), shows his versatility on this wide–ranging album, earnestly building three musical “houses,” each with its own special character. The first house harbors his big band, the second a septet backing vocalist Cynthia Scott, the third a quintet patterned after the Blue Note boppers of years gone by. The large ensemble appears on four tracks, the quintet on two, and Scott sings on the other four. All of the compositions and six of the charts are by Boras (pianist Rich Shemaria arranged the vocal selections, all of whose lyrics were written by baritone Gilbert). The big band, comprised of topnotch New York area musicians, is splendid on its numbers — “Sound Position,” “Britney,” “The Hymn” and “Annika,” the last of which I first heard more than a dozen years ago on trumpeter Dave Stahl’s album, Live at Knights.
Section work is precise and there are muscular solos by pianist Jim McNeely, trumpeters Walter White and Tim Hagans, tenors Tim Ries and Ralph Lalama, trombonist Conrad Herwig, guitarist Bruce Arnold and drummer Dave Ratajczak. Even more admirable is the quintet, which combines impressive themes (“Pleased by You,” “Xenia”) with bright solos by McNeely (wearing his sraight–ahead hat), trumpeter Vinnie Cutro and Boras on baritone sax. Least successful are the vocals, which seem to be aimed toward a “smooth Jazz” audience. Scott sings well enough, but the lyrics are less than memorable, the rhythms colorless (except on “Talk About the Weather”) and Shemaria’s arrangements long on synthesizers but short on substance. Of the Three Houses,
two are definitely in an upscale neighborhood while the third is at least worth checking out, as you may find it more handsome and agreeable than I.
Contact:MMC Recordings, 240 West St., Reading, MA 01867–2847.