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Blue Wisp Big Band: 20th Anniversary

Jim Santella By

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The program opens with a Matt Harris tune that resembles "All Blues." Big band arrangements by Harris, Al Kiger, Larry Dickson, and Steve Allee provide a format that allows plenty of room for swinging. This ensemble gets together every Wednesday night at the Blue Wisp Jazz Club: the band's weekly gig in Cincinnati. They released five LPs in the '80s, but no more until now. Drummer John Von Ohlen, 60, helped start this band in 1980. Thirteen of the original sixteen members are still with the band. A veteran of the Stan Kenton and Woody Herman big bands, Von Ohlen saw the need for rehearsal time and space. Musicians have to share their ideas regularly in order to grow. Bassist Lynn Seaton and trumpeters Tim Hagans & Scott Wendholdt emerged from this band as their careers grew. It's the kind of opportunity that jazz needs everywhere. Unfortunately, opportunities continue to dwindle. Economics may dictate the bottom line around the world, but artists such as this continue to thrive only because they love what they do.

"Well, You Needn't" swings hard. Baritone sax man Larry Dickson and trumpeter Al Nori provide exciting solos. But it's Dickson's inclusion of a few Baroque choruses for the whole band that sets this one apart. The compositions are by Jim Hall, J.J. Johnson, Chick Corea, Bob Brookmeyer, and others. Clare Fischer's "Morning" adds a Latin jazz infusion to the program and highlights the superb piano artistry of Steve Schmidt. No wonder this band keeps on going. Johnny Coles' "Funk Dumplin'" swings deliberately with power and provides another clear reason why these gentlemen love their work so much.


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 saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute on "Forgotten Memories;" Jim Sherrick- alto saxophone, flute on "Forgotten Memories;" Herb Aronoff, Joe Gaudio- tenor saxophone, clarinet on "Forgotten Memories;" Larry Dickson- baritone saxophone; Jeff Folkens, Kevin Moore, Jerry Conrad, Al Nori, Brad Goode- trumpet; Paul Piller, Clarence Pawn, Jim Pelz, Gary Langhorst- trombone; Steve Schmidt- piano; Mike Sharfe- bass; John Von Ohlen- drums.

| Record Label: Sea Breeze Jazz | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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