Two Different Days and one terrific band. This is the sixth album recorded by trumpeter Rob Parton's cyclonic ensemble from the Windy City, and while every one of them has been spectacular in its own way, this one may well earn the blue ribbon as best in show.
Simply put, this is a band that has everythingscrupulous section work, stalwart soloists and a superb rhythm section spearheaded by Chicago's premier big band drummer, Bob Rummage. But even though the competition is fierce, what sets Days apart from Parton's earlier albums, in this reviewer's opinion, is his splendid choice of material, which leaves absolutely nothing to be desired. It's almost as if Parton said to his sidemen, "Let's get together in a studio and record some songs that Jack Bowers would really appreciate." That didn't happen, of course, but it may as well have, as the outcome is the same.
Any album that opens with a mind-blowing arrangement of George Gershwin's "Soon," as this one does, has laid a hammerlock on my heart from the outset. That's the first of five markedly impressive charts by ace writer Don Schamber, complementing two apiece by Thomas Matta, Chris Madsen and Kirk Garrison, trombonist Tom Garling's dynamic "Two Different Days" and Cliff Colnot's ethereal orchestration (with string section) of Chuck Mangione's soulful "She's Gone." Parton, one of that rare breed of trumpeters who plays jazz as well as he plays leadand that's about as well as anyone canis showcased on "Speak Low," "My One and Only Love" and "She's Gone," tenor saxophonist Mark Colby on the debonair "Blue Getz Blues," Garling on bass trombonist Matta's fast-paced treatment of the venerable Tommy Dorsey theme "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You."
Matta also arranged Tadd Dameron's bop classic "On a Misty Night," which houses handsome solos by pianist Don Stille, flugel Ron Ruvio and guest alto Mike Smith. Trumpeter Garrison shares the solo spotlight with Colby on Frank Rosolino's "Blue Daniel," and with Colby, lead alto Bob Frankich and trombonist Tim Coffman on Bernie Miller's "Bernie's Tune," both of which he arranged. Stille and Parton are unerring on Madsen's arrangement of "Never Will I Marry," Garling and guitarist Chris Siebold the same on Irving Berlin's "How Deep Is the Ocean," another Schamber chart, as is Billy Strayhorn's "Take the 'A' Train" (solos by Stille, tenor Brian Budzik, trombonist Brian Jacobi, baritone Ted Hogarth). Coffman, Colby and trumpeter Mike McGrath present well-crafted statements on "Soon," Garling and trumpeter Ruvio on "Two Different Days."
Parton, who has been presiding over the JazzTech Big Band for more than two decades, says the ensemble has found its identity "as a straight-ahead, swingin', hometown Chicago band performing because we love to play creative and original big-band Jazz." That's more than mere philosophy; it's an undeniable fact, one that Two Different Days, one of the year's most impressive big band albums, readily underscores and emphatically affirms.
Track Listing: Soon; On a Misty Night; Speak Low; How Deep Is the Ocean; Take the "A" Train; I'm Getting Sentimental Over You; Blue Daniel; Never Will I Marry; My One and Only Love; Bernie's Tune; Blue Getz Blues; Two Different Days; She's Gone (73:06).
Personnel: Rob Parton, leader, trumpet, flugelhorn; Scott Wagstaff, Kirk Garrison, Mike McGrath, August Haas (7, 10), Fred Powell (3, 4, 9, 10), Marty Tilton (1, 5), trumpet; Bob Frankich, Ken Partyka (6, 8), alto sax; Bob Reszutko, alto sax, flute; Mark Colby, Brian Budzik, tenor sax; Ted Hogarth, baritone sax; Tom Garling, Tim Coffman (2-4, 9), Andy Baker (1, 5, 7, 10), Brian Jacobi (1-5, 7, 9, 10-12), Dan Johnson (6, 8), Bryan Tipps (1, 3-9), trombone; Thomas Matta, bass trombone; Don Stille, piano; Chris Siebold, guitar; Tim Fox, bass; Bob Rummage, drums. Guest artist -- Mike Smith (2), alto sax.