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Allen Farnham and the Rias Big Band: Allen Farnham Meets the Rias Big Band

Robert Spencer By

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RIAS: Radio In America Sector. This German band was formed right after World War II and is now, according to pianist / arranger Allen Farnham, "one of the top contemporary studio / broadcast big bands in Europe."

No doubt that is true. These fellows are mostly relegated to the background for solos, as this disc is full of guest stars: Hendrik Meurkens on harmonica, Chris Potter on tenor, Chris Berger on bass, and Tim Horner on drums. However, trombonist / conductor Jigg Whigham takes a couple of stellar turns, and the flugelhorn of Till Brönner makes itself noticed on an assured version of the Coltrane slammer "Cousin Mary." Gregoire Peters weaves a hypnotic bass clarinet ostinato on Nat Adderley's "Work Song." The band plays with energy and drive enough to show their reputation deserved.

"Rias-ticity," Farnham's tribute to his mates, charges out of the starting gate. Potter's solo here and his others throughout the disc show off his chops and the affinity he shares with Greg Tardy for Rollinsian dive-bombs. Meurkens sounds like a horn, which is meant to be complimentary! "Work Song" continues the fire and passion, which are transmuted into yearning on Farnham's "Lost in Zurich (Verloren in Zürich)."

Highlights: Meurkens; "Cousin Mary" as a whole; the solos on "Samba de Sorvete"; the tightness of the ensemble work throughout, which is a tribute to the musicianship of the RIAS band and Jiggs Whigham.

This will appeal to Rob McConnell fans. It's solid and cheery. A fine band.

Other tracks: "There Will Never Be Another You," "Triste," "Gai-Kichi," "My Foolish Heart." Other personnel: Greg Bowen, Jordan Kapitanov, and Christian Grabandt (trumpets); Dan Gottshall, John Marshall, Thomas Loup and Andy Grossman (trombones); Klaus Marmulla (alto sax and clarinet); Walter Gauchel (tenor, flutes) and Rolf von Nordenskjöld (baritone and bass clarinet).


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