Perhaps setting a record for longevity among contemporary big bands, the Cincinnati based0Blue Wisp Big Band celebrates its 29th anniversary with a release of exciting arrangements of tunes that, for the most part, are composed by well-known musicians. There are cuts by Steve Allen, Bill Evans, Bob Brookmeyer among others, wrapped in captivating arrangements by Matt Harris and Larry Dickson. Not satisfied with simply knee jerk imitations of approaches taken by others, the music has been given a new look by these two excellent chart makers. J. J. Johnson's "Lament" for example, is more lyrical and less bop oriented than one usually hears it as Joe Gaudio's tenor sax comes front and center for a note bending solo. Another album winner is the blue tinged rendition of Chick Corea's "Tones for Joan's Bones" led by Al Nori's trumpet and Herb Aronoff's tenor. This track also puts the spotlight on each of the tight playing of the bands sections. It falls upon the shoulders of drummer Jon von Ohlen to drive the group on the killer diller numbers and lay back when the less hectically paced stuff takes over. He does it as well as any big band drummer extant. The charts also recognize that a good band must be able to be effective with gentle material, not solely relying on the high-flying stuff. This group shows it can change rhythmic courses, without losing any of its vitality, with a lovely rendition of Clare Fischer's "Morning".
The consistently high performance level of the band over the years, and on this CD, is in no small measure due to the fact that 13 of the 16 members have been with the organization for the duration. Instead of letting longevity settle them into a rut, this their 6th CD exudes a freshness that is the result of avoiding playing the same old stuff by having a steady flow of new material enter the band book. Highly recommended.
Track Listing: Winding Way; Show-Type Tune; Well, You Needn't; Lament; Tones for Joan's Bones; Funk Dumplin'; Waltz New; Straight Track; Hum; Morning; Forgotten Memories; Just in Time
Personnel: Mike Andres - Alto & Soprano Sax/Flute; Jim Sherrick - Alto Sax/Flute; Herb Aronoff, Joe Gaudio - Tenor Sax/Clarinet; Larry Dickson - Baritone Sax; Jeff Folkens, Kevin Moore, Jerry Conrad, Al Nori, Brad Goode - Trumpet; Paul Piller, Clarence Pawn, Jim Petz, Gary Langhorst - Trombone; Steve Schmidt - Piano; Mike Sharfe - Bass; John von Ohlen - Drums