Bob Brookmeyer, speaking recently about the passing of so many of Jazz’s creative voices, said, “Thank goodness we still have Lee Konitz.” And Tom Talbert, Bob. Talbert, who has been composing and arranging for groups of every size and shape for nearly sixty years, shows again on To a Lady, his first album since ’98, that he hasn’t lost the touch that endeared him to such bandleaders as Claude Thornhill, Stan Kenton, Buddy Rich, Charlie Barnet, Tony Pastor, Boyd Raeburn and many others. As Talbert shuttles back and forth between the east and west coasts these days, he uses his “New York ensemble” on this studio session, and that means we have the rare pleasure of hearing from trumpeter Joe Wilder, trombonist Eddie Bert, alto saxophonist Dick Oatts and other highly regarded residents of the Big Apple. We also have the undeniable pleasure of listening to Talbert’s invariably fresh and tasteful compositions and arrangements. All of the charts are Talbert’s, as are nine of the twelve songs (the exceptions are Thelonious Monk’s ”’Round Midnight,” Rodgers and Hart’s “Little Girl Blue” and classical composer Maurice Ravel’s “Pavane de la Belle aux Bois Dormant”). Talbert writes handsome melodies that glide smoothly into one’s ears as if on ball bearings. There’s no use playing favorites, as each of them is charming in its own way, from the Latin “Chiripa” to the busy “Dance Delively” and “Divertissement,” the gently swinging “To a Lady,” “Love’s Melody” and “Month of Sundays,” the balladic “Green Night” and the carefree “Tune for Two” and “Orange Bright.” Besides Wilder, Bert and Oatts, the topnotch soloists include trumpeters Glenn Drewes and Brian O’Flaherty, trombonist Jim Pugh, clarinetist / tenor saxhophonist Aaron Sachs, baritone Danny Bank and guitarist Howard Alden. Oatts is superb by himself on “Green Night” and with the remarkable Wilder (flugel) on Talbert’s luminous arrangement of “Little Girl Blue.” O’Flaherty makes the most of his lone appearance, on “Month of Sundays,” while Sachs sparkles on clarinet (“To a Lady,” “’Round Midnight,” “Pavane”) or tenor (“Chiripa,” “Love’s Melody,” “Dance Delively,” “Month of Sundays,” “Divertissement,” “Orange Bright”). Good as everyone is, however, the high cards in this deck are those in Talbert’s hand. He’s one of the most talented and resourceful composer / arrangers in Jazz, and To a Lady is one of the more enjoyable big–band albums of the year.
Contact:Essential Music Group, 274 Water St., Excelsior, MN 55331; phone 888–466–9119.
Track Listing: Chiripa; To a Lady Asking Foolish Questions; Tune for Two;
Personnel: Tom Talbert, composer, arranger; Dick Oatts, alto sax; Roger Rosenberg, alto sax, flute, clarinet; Aaron Sachs, tenor sax, clarinet; Danny Bank, baritone sax, bass clarinet; Joe Mosello, Danny Cahn, Brian O