219

The Brigham Phillips Big Band: And It Really Was

Jack Bowers By

Sign in to view read count
Another world–class big band? Yes, it really is — and this one’s from Toronto, Canada, home of the renowned Boss Brass, several of whose alumni are on hand to make sure the phrase “world–class” is entirely appropriate. Commander–in–chief Brigham Phillips, who moved to Toronto from Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1981, says he’d been planning the album for almost ten years, and his diligence and patience were amply rewarded once the roadblocks had been pushed aside and the band gathered in a studio. And It Really Was is a sterling enterprise from start to finish, enlivened by Phillips’s radiant charts and impressive blowing by ensemble and soloists alike. While our own tendency is to favor the friskier numbers (“Foots Bay Boogie,” “Blowhead,” “Struttin’ with Some Barbi–Q,” “Blues for Val”), there’s no letdown elsewhere with handsome arrangements of “Flight East,” “Lush Life,” “Gentle Touch” and “Irish Cream” complementing John McDermott’s three vocals. The album’s cryptic title refers to a favorite expression of Phillips’s friend and former lead alto, the late Keith Jollimore, to whom the picturesque thirteen–minute finale is dedicated. The toe–tapping curtain–raiser, “Boogie,” introduces the listener to the band’s muscular drummer, Mark Kelso, and accommodates shimmering solos by trombonist Terry Promane and Phillips, wearing his trumpeter’s hat. The mid–tempo rocker, “Flight East,” encircling eloquent statements by flutist Verne Dorge and (muted) trumpeter Steve McDade, precedes tenor saxophonist Mike Murley’s opulent feature, Billy Strayhorn’s “Lush Life.” “Blowhead,” a sixteen–bar blues on which Phillips mans the keyboard, swings Basie–fashion from the downbeat with guitarist Tony Zorzi, trombonist Alastair Kay and tenor Perry White adding spice and Kelso goading the band’s brawny rhythm section. “Gentle Touch” is tailor–made for the warm flugel of Guido Basso, a longtime standout with the Boss Brass. Other BB alumni are trumpeters McDade and John MacLeod, trombonist Kay and French hornist James MacDonald. Basso, Murley, McDade and Terry Promane are members of the Rob McConnell Tentet while the Promane brothers and White also perform with Canada’s “other” leading ensemble, the Dave McMurdo Jazz Orchestra. Everyone has a good time on the Dixie–flavored samba “Struttin’ with Some Barbi–Q,” especially Kelso, Zorzi (on banjo), soloists Dorge (clarinet), Phillips and Terry Promane, and the brass section (which contributes a breathtaking soli). Brother Mark Promane’s alto seasons the appetizing “Irish Cream”; Phillips (piano), MacLeod, McDade and Murley brighten the shuffling “Blues for Val.” Dorge’s plaintive alto introduces the sprawling “And It Really Was” whose mournful opening passages give way to a celebratory second section with ardent statements by Phillips, Zorzi, Basso, Kay, Dorge, Kelso and baritone Chris Mitchell. We’ve not said much about McDonald’s vocals, as there’s not much to say except that he has a pleasant voice, good presence and sings on key. Unhappily, he has chosen two songs (“I Fall in Love Too Easily,” “Put Your Dreams Away”) associated with Sinatra, another (“Mona Lisa”) with Nat Cole, and suffers by comparison. But as band singers go he’s better than average. As for the band, it’s about as good as can be, as one would expect from such seasoned professionals. That’s not simply idle chatter — it really is.

Contact: EMI Music Canada, 3109 American Drive, Mississauga, Ontario L4V 1B2, Canada.


Track Listing: The Foots Bay Boogie; Flight East; Lush Life; Blowhead; I Fall in Love Too Easily; Gentle Touch; Struttin’ with Some Barbi–Q; Put Your Dreams Away; Irish Cream; Blues for Val; Mona Lisa; And It Really Was (77:55).

Personnel: Brigham Phillips, conductor, arranger, piano, trumpet; Verne Dorge, Mark Promane, alto sax, flute, clarinet; Mike Murley, Perry White, tenor sax, flute, clarinet; Chris Mitchell, baritone sax, clarinet; Jason Logue, Steve McDade, John MacLeod, Guido Basso, trumpet, flugelhorn; Alastair Kay, Terry Promane, Gord Myers, Gene Smith (7, 9), trombone; Doug Gibson, bass trombone, tuba; James MacDonald, French horn; Tony Zorzi, guitar, banjo; Bill Bridges (11), nylon guitar; Patrick Kilbride, electric, acoustic bass; Mark Kelso, drums, percussion; John McDermott (5, 8, 11), vocals.

Year Released: 2002 | Record Label: EMI Music | Style: Big Band


Shop

More Articles

Read The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door CD/LP/Track Review The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 25, 2017
Read The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture CD/LP/Track Review The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Coldest Second Yesterday CD/LP/Track Review Coldest Second Yesterday
by John Sharpe
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Follow Your Heart CD/LP/Track Review Follow Your Heart
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Chicago II CD/LP/Track Review Chicago II
by Doug Collette
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Over the Rainbow CD/LP/Track Review Over the Rainbow
by Paul Rauch
Published: February 24, 2017
Read "Cloud Illusions" CD/LP/Track Review Cloud Illusions
by Mark Sullivan
Published: September 7, 2016
Read "Il Dodicesimo Nano" CD/LP/Track Review Il Dodicesimo Nano
by Jim Olin
Published: January 10, 2017
Read "Dare to Be" CD/LP/Track Review Dare to Be
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: August 8, 2016
Read "Right Where I Need to Be" CD/LP/Track Review Right Where I Need to Be
by Jim Olin
Published: June 6, 2016
Read "Intersection" CD/LP/Track Review Intersection
by Mark Sullivan
Published: June 9, 2016
Read "From Here to There" CD/LP/Track Review From Here to There
by Mark F. Turner
Published: September 11, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!