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.
I was first exposed to jazz when I was tiny. My earliest memory is watching Ella Fitzgerald scat on a Christmas special when I was no older than four. Like many who are from tiny towns, my first extended exposure was listening to the high school jazz band when I was a kid
I was first exposed to jazz when I was tiny. My earliest memory is watching Ella Fitzgerald scat on a Christmas special when I was no older than four. Like many who are from tiny towns, my first extended exposure was listening to the high school jazz band when I was a kid. For some reason I remember an arrangement of Hey Jude they did. My first real exposure was Stan Kenton in the Smithville, MO high school gym. Kenton and the band director there were old friends, so he would play there from time to time. My dad took me without telling me where we were going and it was the only show he ever took me to. I remember that Bobby Shew played Send In Clowns and I damn near levitated I was so excited. The huge sound and amazing chords floored me. I believe I was 13 at the time. I immediately started practicing and taking lessons. Music became a passion and nearly a career. I also listened to Dick Wright's Jazz Show on KANU every night. I can't even start to explain what I learned lying in bed listening to Dick talk about jazz. I met him once when I was struggling to put together a solo for Joy Spring playing in a combo at KU. Stopped by his office and asked for recommendations. He showed up at my jazz ensemble rehearsal the next day with a tape with example solos. What a kind man Dick Wright was.
My advice to new listeners is to stop worrying about what music is important and focus on music you like. I spent quite a bit of my music life listening to important music I didn't necessarily like. Must say I have quite a bit more fun now listening to music that I deeply enjoy. Some of it is even important.
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