This is a clever idea, and a scary one as well. Clever because it seeks to recreate the innovative "four brothers sound (three tenor saxophones, one baritone) made famous by Woody Herman's legendary Second Herd; scary because whoever undertakes the assignment has some enormous shoes to fill (Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, Herbie Steward, Serge Chaloff). Happily for the listener, these seasoned front-linerseach of whom played with Woody at various timeswear them quite well, even as one concedes that no claimants to the venerated sandals could ever supplant those who first slipped them on.
Frank Tiberi, who joined the Herman orchestra in 1969 and has served as its director since Woody's passing in 1987, anchors the tenor trio and plays soprano on "Central Park West and "Woody's Whistle. The other tenors are Larry McKenna and John Nugent, with baritone Mike Brignola making it a foursome. They are backed by a stellar rhythm section, each of whose memberspianist David Berkman, bassist Lynn Seaton, drummer Matt Wilsonis an alumnus of the Herman Herds.
Given its raison d'être, it's hardly surprising that the album opens with a spirited rendition of Jimmy Giuffre's classic "Four Brothers (whose solo order is Nugent-Tiberi-McKenna-Brignola, not Tiberi-Nugent-Brignola-McKenna, as stated in the booklet). Brignola and Berkman are listed as soloists on "Just You, Just Me but there's one more, and he sounds like McKenna to me. Tiberi is featured on "Central Park, Nugent on his own "Four of a Kind, McKenna on "Woody's Lament, while everyone gets to blow on Dizzy Gillespie's "Woody 'n You and Hank Mobley's "Tenor Conclave.
Completing the session are Al Cohn's "The Goof and I and a pair of originals by Tiberi, "Buzzogle Boggled (showcasing his distinctive tenor) and "The Garz and I (on which Nugent deps for tenor/dedicatee George Garzone). The horns are keen and commendable, Berkman is a perceptive accompanist and an articulate soloist, Seaton (who bows the upright on occasion and even scats on "Four of a Kind ) is one of my favorite timekeepers, and it's always a kick to hear Wilson exercise his impressive chops in a straight-ahead setting.
While pairing the "four brothers reed section with rhythm sans brass may seem inspired, this isn't the first time it has been done. In 1957 the original "brothers were reunited briefly to produce Four Brothers Together Again for Vik Records (with Al Cohn, who had replaced Steward on Herman's Second Herd shortly after "Four Brothers was recorded, sitting in for Getz). While those trailblazers have "left the premises, as Frazier's emphatic voice-over habitually announced, their legacy is in good hands. Those who weren't there when the "four brothers were bornand even those who wereshould warm quickly to this earnest and entertaining cruise down memory lane.
Four Brothers; Just You, Just Me; Central Park West; The Goof and I; Woody
Frank Tiberi: tenor, soprano sax; Larry McKenna, John Nugent: tenor sax; Mike Brignola: baritone sax; David
Berkman: piano; Lynn Seaton: bass; Matt Wilson: drums.
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