Alan Baylock Jazz Orchestra Eastern Standard Time H&N
At first glance it may seem that, for a seasoned pro, arranging time-tested standards for a jazz orchestra would be something akin to taking a leisurely stroll in the park. But consider this: countless other arrangers have seen things the same way, and those memorable refrains have been sliced and diced, remodeled and amended in almost every way possible. The challenge thus lies not only in placing notes and phrases in the proper order but bringing something fresh and appetizing to the table.
On Eastern Standard Time, the second album as leader of his own orchestra, Alan Baylock, chief arranger for the U.S. Air Force's leading jazz ensemble, the Airmen of Note, has unsheathed his pen and taken dead aim at nine popular and jazz standards. While his charts are by no means exotic, neither are they ever less than persuasive. Even though the nuts and bolts remain firmly in place, Baylock adds enough colorful accessories to make certain the listener's attention never wanders.
Among those lending a sturdy hand in that department is the ABJO's special guest, the assertive Boston-based tenor saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi, who solos with customary vigor on Juan Tizol's "Caravan," Victor Young/Ned Washington's "Stella by Starlight" and Duke Ellington's "Warm Valley." As the ensemble is comprised of sidemen from the AoN, Army Blues and Navy Commodores, there's no letdown in expertise when Bergonzi isn't around. Indeed, the orchestra and its soloists are uniformly impressive (no pun intended). They include altos Antonio Orta and Andy Axelrad, tenors Joseph Henson and Luis Hernandez, baritone Doug Morgan, trumpeters Tim Leahey and Rich Sigler, trombonists Joe Jackson and Ben Patterson, pianists Tony Nalker and Harry Appelman, bassist John Pineda and drummer Steve Fidyk. Patterson is superb on his feature, "All the Things You Are," Axelrad and Leahey likewise on Cole Porter's "Love for Sale."
Yes, you've presumably heard these songs before, but speaking for myself, it's always a pleasure to hear them again, especially when performed by an ensemble as sharp and dynamic as the ABJO.
Brussels Jazz Orchestra
The Music of Michel Herr
Composer / arranger Michel Herr has been writing for big bands for more than thirty years, and as this two-disc set by the world-class Brussels Jazz Orchestra affirms, he's pretty good at it. Not all of the music was written for the occasion; in fact, "Pentaprism," which closes Disc 2, is one of Herr's earlier compositions, inscribed in the mid-'70s for the ACT Big Band. Another of his essays, "Extremes," is the title selection from ACT's second album, while the "Celebration Suite" (much of it, anyway) made its debut on The September Sessions (De Werf, 1999).
The colorful four-part "Celebration," whose third movement, "A New Page," has been added, is the first of two extended works on Disc 2. The more recently composed "Flagey, a New Era," also in four parts, is a stellar showcase for the talents of tenor saxophonist Kurt Van Herck, pianist Nathalie Loriers, trumpeter Jeroen Van Malderen, guitarist Peter Hertmans and alto Frank Vaganee. "Pentaprism," a loping flag-waver, is preceded by the graceful "Song for Micheline" (solos by Van Herck on soprano and flugel Pierre Drevet).
The seven pieces on Disc 1 are unconnected save for their genesis in Herr's prolific imagination. While Herr invariably writes with proficiency and taste, his music can and does swing heartily, as is evident on "Springboard," "Bad Fever," "Out of the Silence," "Pentaprism" and the high-spirited suites. After opening on a discordant note, "Extremes" morphs into the sort of light-hearted refrain one might hear on the children's TV series "Sesame Street" (and is in fact faintly reminiscent of the show's main theme).
The BJO, now in its fourth decade, is a splendid ensemble, about as good as big bands can be. The soloists, some of whom are relative newcomers, are consistently admirable, as are veterans (and founding members) Vaganee and trombonist Marc Godfroid. Besides those already mentioned, they include trumpeter Nico Schepers, alto Dieter Limbourg, tenor Bart Defoort, baritone Bo Van der Werf, trombonist Lode Mertens, bassist Jos Machtel and drummer Martijn Vink. This is an album for those who believe the big-band field is lying fallow with not much worth harvesting. Not so, as Herr and the BJO give the listener plenty of musical sustenance on which to chew.
Rick Wald 16/nyc
Play That Thing
Here's more urbane big-band Jazz designed for the twenty-first century courtesy of composer/arranger Rick Wald and his 16/nyc, following up their splendid Castaneda's Dreams(Glowbow, 2006).
As on that earlier studio session, all of the persuasive charts on Play That Thing were written by Wald who also composed five of its eight selections and solos on one ("Quascau"). Completing the picturesque program are Herbie Hancock's "Maiden Voyage," Wayne Shorter's "Prince of Darkness" and an offbeat version of Edgar Sampson/Chick Webb's Jazz standard, "Stompin' at the Savoy." Wald's arrangements are weighty and elaborate, and to its credit, the ensemble masters them readily without overdubs. That's one of the benefits of having a sizable pool of accomplished musicians from which to choose, and Wald has chosen well.
While the rhythm section from Castaneda's Dreams (pianist Ted Kooshian, bassist Chip Jackson, drummer Jeff Brillinger) returns intact, there are new faces elsewhere, and engaging solos by several of them including tenors Ted Nash ("Dawn to Dawn," "Savoy") and Adam Kolker ("Dawn to Dawn," "Prince," "Gonna Getcha"), trumpeter Jack Walrath ("Dawn to Dawn," "Quascau," "Prince," "Savoy"), trombonist Noah Bless ("Dawn to Dawn ," "Gonna Getcha") and especially baritone Terry Goss ("Quascau," "Gonna Getcha"). Kooshian, Jackson and Brillinger also have their say, as do trombonists Art Baron and Sam Burtis, trumpeter John Eckert and versatile Lou Marini on alto sax and alto flute.
In summing up, I can do no better than recap the appraisal of Castaneda's Dreams, wherein I wrote that it is "recommended to anyone who appreciates a contemporary big band with charisma and a cutting edge. Recording quality is first-class, playing time as generous as it comes. A neat and handsome package." Play That Thing is comparable in every respect.
Nathan Tanouye & the Las Vegas Jazz Connection
The late Russ Freeman, long known as one of the West Coast's foremost bop-influenced pianists, was also a splendid songwriter, at least one of whose compositions, "The Wind," has been recorded by upwards of forty musical artists and securely enshrined in the pantheon of jazz standards. Composer/arranger Nathan Tanouye, one of Freeman's many admirers, remembers that aspect of his talent on an album comprised of eight of Freeman's themes and Tanouye's warmhearted salute, "Peace for Russ," the last enhanced by the exquisite inventions of guest flugelhornist Bobby Shew.
"Peace" is one of three instrumentals, each one handsomely performed by the Las Vegas Jazz Connection, a full-size ensemble with string section added. The other half-dozen contain lyrics (by Ruth Price, Joel Reisner, Tyja Wilson or Annie Ross) and are sung by Martin Nievera ("Samba de Vida," When Love Was Lost," "Run, Run, Run"), Alicia Cunningham ("From Me to You"), Don Cunningham ("Night Town") and the Cunninghams together ("Music Is Forever").
The orchestra can swing when necessary, as it proves with gusto on "Band-Aid" (written for Freeman's musical partner, Chet Baker) and "One on One," on which one is able to appreciate Freeman's stylish piano again, as his original solo has been electronically embedded in Tanouye's arrangement, sandwiched between incisive statements by alto saxophonist Phil Wigfall and drummer John Abraham. Alto Marc Solis, trumpeter Gil Kaupp and pianist David Loeb keep the heat on high with scorching solos on the zesty "Band-Aid."
As remembrances go, this one is worth bearing in mind. An earnest and well-designed homage to a superb pianist/composer whose body of work, thanks to capable enthusiasts such as Nathan Tanouye, won't soon pass from sight.
University of North Florida Jazz Ensemble 1
With All My Love
On its latest album, With All My Love, the University of North Florida Jazz Ensemble 1 readily enhances its stature as one of the country's leading undergraduate Jazz orchestras. Recording for the first time under its new director, J.B. Scott, the ensemble performs with power, finesse and a keen grasp of nuance and dynamics in a program that embodies three original compositions by guest tenor saxophonist Ed Calle who also arranged the iconic theme from the '50s television series "I Love Lucy."
All other songs and arrangements are by members or former members of the ensemble including the title selection, written by UNF's director of Jazz Studies, Bunky Green, and arranged by one of his students, alto saxophonist Alex Lore (who solos with trumpeter Alex Nguyen and pianist Stephen Dornfeld). Trumpeter Scott Dickinson arranged the murky "Monk's Mood" and Joe Henderson's galloping "Jinriksha" (recorded in concert), baritone Luis Colon Horace Silver's "Opus de Funk." The remaining numbers, "Quiet" and "Hike," were composed and arranged, respectively, by former students Chris Creswell and David Guidi.
Calle's rhythmic "Mambo Wambo," on which his robust, expressive tenor is out front (as it is on the Caribbean-flavored "Rice & Beans"), sets the pendulum in motion, and it keeps swinging tirelessly regardless of mood or tempo. "Hike," also recorded live, is especially fast and tricky, but the ensemble nails it with ease, as it does every other number. Percussionist Al "Tito" Ortiz lends reinforcement on Calle's originals and on "Lucy," which begins as a slow sax soli before building to a rip-roaring climax behind Calle's fiery tenor.
Soloists, from Dickinson, Nguyen, Lore and Dornfeld to tenors Jeremy Fratti and Cody Phillips, alto Ryan Weisheit, trombonist Luke Brimhall and drummer John Lumpkin (who anchors the persuasive rhythm section) are less than memorable but more than respectable. The album as a whole is entirely commendable and warmly recommended. One caveat: if you plan to read the liner notes, be sure to have a magnifying glass handy.
Tracks and Personnel
Eastern Standard Time
Tracks: Caravan; Stella by Starlight; On Green Dolphin Street; Body and Soul; Oleo; All the Things You Are; Warm Valley; Love for Sale; Cherokee.
Personnel: Alan Baylock: arranger, conductor; Brian McDonald, Rick Cooper, Rich Sigler, Tim Leahey, Tim Stanley (1,2,7): trumpet, flugelhorn; Antonio Orta, Andy Axelrad: alto sax; Joseph Henson, Luis Hernandez: tenor sax; Doug Morgan: baritone sax; Ben Patterson, Jeff Martin, Joe Jackson, Jeff Cortazzo: trombone; Harry Appelman (1,2,6,7,9), Tony Nalker (3-5,8): piano; John Pineda: bass; Steve Fidyk: drums. Special guest: Jerry Bergonzi (1,2,7): tenor sax.
The Music of Michel Herr
Tracks: CD1: Springboard; Distant Echoes; Extremes; Multributes; Bad Fever; Song for Lucy; Out of the Silence. CD2: Celebration Suite (Prelude / Bells / New Page / The Next 20 Years); Flagey, a New Era (Past Splendor / Hibernation / The Awakening / Sailing Again); Song for Micheline; Pentaprism.
Personnel: Michel Herr: composer, arranger, conductor; Frank Vaganee: leader, alto, soprano sax, flute; Serge Plume, Nico Schepers, Pierre Drevet, Jeroen Van Malderen: trumpet, flugelhorn; Dieter Limbourg: alto sax, flute; Kurt Van Herck: tenor, soprano sax, clarinet; Bart Defoort: tenor sax, clarinet; Bo Van der Werf: baritone sax, bass clarinet; Marc Godfroid, Lode Mertens, Frederik Heirman: trombone; Laurent Hendrick: bass trombone; Peter Hertmans: guitar; Nathalie Loriers: piano; Jos Machtel: bass; Martijn Vink: drums.
Play That Thing
Tracks: Maiden Voyage; Play That Thing; Dawn to Dawn in the City; Quascau; Prince of Darkness; Gonna Getcha; Things Ain't What They Seem; Stompin' at the Savoy.
Personnel: Rick Wald: composer, arranger, leader, alto sax (4); Earl Gardner, Seneca Black, John Eckert, Jack Walrath: trumpet; Lou Marini: alto, soprano sax, flute; Loren Stillman: alto sax, flute; Ted Nash: tenor sax, flute; Adam Kolker: tenor sax, clarinet; Terry Goss: baritone sax, bass clarinet; Sam Burtis, Noah Bless, Art Baron: trombone; George Flynn: bass trombone; Ted Kooshian: piano; Chip Jackson, Dennis Irwin (5): bass; Jeff Brillinger: drums.
Tracks: Samba de Vida; From Me to You; Band Aid; Night Town; One on One; When Love Was Lost and Found; Run, Run, Run; Peace for Russ; Music Is Forever.
Personnel: Nathan Tanouye: leader, arranger, trombone; Dan Falcone, Gil Kaupp, Gary Cordell, Glenn Colby: trumpet, flugelhorn; Phil Wigfall, Marc Solis: alto, soprano sax; Wayne de Silva (4,9), Rusty Blevins, Matt Taylor (3,5,8): tenor sax, clarinet; Marty Radunz (2,6,7): tenor sax, clarinet, oboe; Rob Mader: baritone sax, clarinet, bass clarinet; Bonnie Butler Tanouye (1,2,4,6-9): flute; Dick McGee, Kevin Stout: trombone; Mike Dobranski (1,2,4,6-9), Sonny Hernandez (3,5): bass trombone; Chris Castellanos: horn; David Loeb (1-3,5,6,8), Mike Eckroth (4,7,9): piano; Morrie Louden (1,2,4,6,7,9), Derek Jones (3,5,8): bass; John Abraham (1-3,5,6,8), George Bryant (4,7,9): drums; Gabriel Falcon (1-3): percussion; Rebecca Ramsey, James Harvey, Martha Gronemeier, Shakeh Ghoukasian, Abe Gumroyan, Lauren Jackson, Jody Taylor: violin; Mary Trimble, Sharon Street-Caldwell: viola; Moonlight Tran, Barbara Gurley: cello; Kim DeLibero: harp. Special guestsBobby Shew (8): flugelhorn; Alicia Cunningham, Don Cunningham, Martin Nievera; vocals.
With All My Love
Tracks: Mambo Wambo; With All My Love; Biscayne Bay; Monk's Mood; I Love Lucy; Opus de Funk; Quiet; Rice & Beans; Jinrikisha; Hike.
Personnel: J.B. Scott: director; Tommy Osborne, Scott Dickinson, James Justice, Alex Nguyen, John Jungerburg: trumpet; Alex Lore, Ryan Weisheit: alto sax; Jeremy Fratti, Cody Phillips: tenor sax; Luis Colon, Matt Zettelmoyer (9,10): baritone sax; Luke Brimhall, Andrew Hamilton, Sam Szpendyk, Paul Joyner: trombone; A.J Douglas, Santiago Latorre (9,10): bass trombone; Stephen Dornfeld: piano; Daniel Hunting: guitar; Ian Kelly: bass; John Lumpkin: drums; Ben Adkins: percussion. Special guestsEd Calle: tenor sax; Al "Tito" Ortiz (1,3,5,8): percussion.