There are moments on its debut recording when the Twin Cities-based Acme Jazz Company rises well above its generic name to present an exciting brand of big-band jazz, others when its run-of-the-mill label seems to suit the ensemble like a proverbial glove. Lance Strickland's genial "One Eyed Jacks," for example, hustles merrily along behind cogent statements from tenor Tom Schmitt, trombonist Ben Link, guitarist Geoff LeCrone and drummer / percussionist Andy Artz, whereas alto Doug Rasmussen's syrupy "Balm for the World" wouldn't be at all out of place on a smooth-jazz radio station. As for Arne Fogel's five vocals, they land somewhere in between, while the other instrumentals give the ensemble and soloists ample opportunity to bask in the spotlight.
The trombones shine brightest on tenor Bob Parsons' swinging arrangement of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "It Might as Well Be Spring" (elegant solo courtesy of Link), while brass and reeds take charge on Stevie Wonder's "Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing" (also arranged by Parsons) and Brian Wilson's smooth-flowing "Wouldn't It Be Nice." Fogel, an earnest crooner from the Sinatra school of lyric fidelity and precise diction, offers respectable albeit unassuming readings of the standards "Time After Time," "Nice Work If You Can Get It," "Autumn in New York," "Cheek to Cheek" and Louis Jordan's R&B classic "Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby."
Drummer Tony Guscetti (replaced by Artz on "One Eyed Jacks" and "Balm for the World") supervises a capable rhythm section that includes LeCrone, bassist Miles Porter and pianists Bruce Jandrey, Michael Fischer or Bill Gabrys. Other soloists who bend the ear are Parsons ("Wouldn't It Be Nice"), Tom Matheson (flugel on "Time After Time," trumpet on "Don't You Worry") and bass trombonist Brooke Nelson ("Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby"). A moderately uneven studio date whose strong points outweigh its weaker fragments while showing meaningful promise for albums yet to come.
Track Listing: Time After Time; Wouldn’t It Be Nice; A Balm for the World; Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby; Nice Work If You Can Get It; One Eyed Jacks; Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing; It Might as Well Be Spring; Autumn in New York; Cheek to Cheek.
Personnel: Doug Rasmussen: leader, alto sax, flute, piccolo; Peter Davis: trumpet; Todd Matheson: trumpet; David Smythe: trumpet; Robert Hirte: trumpet; Jerry Cerchia: trumpet (3, 6); Adam Meckler: trumpet (3, 6); Miles Mortensen: alto sax, flute; Bob Parsons: tenor sax, flute; Tom Schmitt: tenor, soprano sax; Michael Gartner: baritone sax, bass clarinet; Keith Hilson: trombone; Dave Graf: trombone; Ben Link: trombone; Lance Strickland: trombone; Michael Haynes: trombone (4, 5, 9, 10); Mike Larson: trombone (1, 7, 8); Brooke Nelson: bass trombone; Bruce Jandrey: keyboards (2, 4, 5, 9, 10); Michael Fischer: keyboards (1, 7, 8); Bill Gabrys: keyboards (3, 6); Geoff LeCrone: guitar; Miles Porter: bass; Tony Guscetti: drums; Andy Artz: drums, percussion (3, 6); Arne Fogel: vocals.