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The Pete McGuinness Jazz Orchestra: Along for the Ride

Jack Bowers By

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On the third album as leader of his superlative New York-based Jazz Orchestra, trombonist Pete McGuinness proves again that he is one of the more astute and resourceful composer / arrangers on the scene today. From "Put on a Happy Face" through "One for the Maestro," McGuinness' impressive charts are decorous models of warmth and perception. As a bonus, McGuinness sings (and scats), Chet Baker-style, on Michel Legrand's "You Must Believe in Spring" and Marvin Fisher / Jack Segal's lovely ballad, "May I Come In."

Among the more engaging aspects of Along for the Ride is that, unlike McGuiness' earlier albums, it rests firmly on a straight-ahead and swinging framework that brightens every mood and tempo. That's true even when McGuinness is addressing a well-worn theme and turning it inside out and upside down, as he does on the Broadway show-stopper "Put on a Happy Face," first sung by the incomparable Dick van Dyke in the hit musical Bye Bye Birdie. Another splendid example is the Gershwin brothers' "Who Cares," which has seldom sounded more enchanting than it does in McGuinness' smooth and easygoing arrangement. Or "One for the Maestro," written Basie-style in memory of McGuinness' high-school band director, Bill Stanley, a marvelous way to wrap up a superb session that glistens and satisfies from start to finish.

Presaging that handsome finale are a trio of McGuinness' impressive tunes—"Old Roads," "Point of Departure," "Aftermath"—and Nat Adderley's carefree "Jive Samba," which fits neatly into the over-all scheme. Good as the leader's compositions and arrangements are, however, they must be faced head-on and brought to life by a group of talented musicians, and McGuinness' seasoned ensemble is more than up to the task, dispatching every number with agility and assurance. As the soloists are no less admirable, it suffices simply to name them: tenor Tom Christensen, pianist Mike Holober ("Happy Face"); Holober again ("Spring"); flugel Chris Rogers, drummer Scott Neumann ("Roads"); McGuinness, Neumann, tenor Rob Middleton, trumpeter Bill Mobley ("Departure"); Holober, soprano Dave Pietro ("Aftermath); Holober ("May I Come In"); trombonist Matt Haviland, baritone Dave Riekenberg ("Jive Samba"); alto Mark Phaneuf, trombonist Mark Patterson ("Who Cares); Pietro (alto), trombonist Bruce Eidem, bassist Andy Ealau ("Maestro"). Each one is deft and resourceful, and there isn't a false note to be heard.

Nor are there any disconcerting bumps on the entire Ride, which has positioned itself as a front-runner among the many big-band albums that are competing to ensnare the hearts and ears of a steadily waning body of perceptive listeners.

Track Listing: Put on a Happy Face; You Must Believe in Spring; Old Roads; Point of Departure; Aftermath; May I Come In; Jive Samba; Who Cares; One for the Maestro.

Personnel: Pete McGuinness: leader, composer, arranger; Bill Mobley: trumpet; Jon Owens: trumpet; Tony Kadleck: trumpet; Chris Rogers: trumpet; Dave Riekenberg: alto sax; Dave Pietro: alto sax; Rob Middleton: tenor sax; Mark Phaneuf: tenor sax; Tom Christensen: baritone sax; Jeff Nelson: trombone; Matt Haviland: trombone; Bruce Eidem: trombone; Mark Patterson: bass trombone; Mike Holober: piano; Paul Meyers: guitar; Andy Ealau: bass; Scott Neumann: drums.

Title: Along for the Ride | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Summit Records

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