Ryan Haines, who has spent the better part of his musical career playing trombone in a number of U.S. Air Force Jazz ensembles, pilots a well–equipped big band into the stratosphere on To the Sky, his high–flying “civilian” debut on Sea Breeze Records. Haines wrote eight of the ten numbers on the album, which together comprise what was originally created as the “Blue Sky Suite,” a musical portrait of various aspects of military life. The opener and finale, “To the Sky” and “Back to the ‘Blues’,” are based on elements of the Air Force theme, “Off We Go (Into the Wild Blue Yonder).” In between are selections that depict the themes of separation, leisure time, high–performance aircraft, the deployment of troops and equipment, and the happy reunion of troops and families after a long deployment away from home. Two vocals, “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?” and “I Will Wait for You,” although not a part of the suite, are in keeping with its over–all theme, with the first representing the disposition of servicemen and women thinking of their homes and loved ones, the second articulating the point of view of those waiting at home. What matters most to big–band enthusiasts, of course, is not so much the concept as how it is carried out. In other words, does To the Sky swing? Yes, it does. HIs idea, says Haines, was to write big–band charts that are “fun to listen to, enjoyable to play and not overtly military, even while communicating aspects of Air Force life.” He has succeeded admirably in doing so, helped by a number of his teammates from the Air Force Band of the Rockies including trumpeter Mark Israel, alto saxophonist Ed Hureau, tenor Bill Murray, baritone Rich Inouye, bassist Scott Webring and drummer George Thompson (unfortunately, the album provides no complete list of personnel). The vocalists are John Teamer (“New Orleans”) and Mrs. Haines, Sharon (“I Will Wait for You”). The ensemble is spotlighted on “Letter from Home,” the reed section on “Like Lightning.” Thompson’s drums lend a martial character to “Like Thunder,” which includes strong solos by Haines and alto Lucas Munce. Haines takes control again (with Israel, Murray and Thompson) on “To the Sky,” with Murray and guitarist Bill Applegate on “Back to the ‘Blues’,” with Israel (flugel) on “Goodbye for Now” and with percussionist Henrique de Almeida on “Beach Assignment.” Pianist Eric Gunnison and flugel Kevin Burns solo on “The Reunion,” Inouye and Murray on “Like Lightning.” To the Sky takes off quickly and makes a flawless three–point landing at the end of a highly enjoyable flight.
Contact:Sea Breeze Records, P.O. Box 11267, Glendale, CA 91226–7267. Phone 818–242–2093. Web site, www.seabreezejazz.com
Track Listing: To the Sky; Goodbye for Now; Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?; Like Lightning; Beach Assignment; I Will Wait for You; There
Personnel: Ryan Haines, leader, trombone; Kevin Burns, Mark Israel, trumpet; Ed Hureau, Lucas Munce, alto sax; Bill Murray, tenor sax; Rich Inouye, baritone sax; Eric Gunnison, piano; Bill Applegate, guitar; Scott Webring, bass; George Thompson, drums; Henrique de Almeida, percussion; John Teamer, Sharon Haines, vocals. Other personnel unlisted.