Phil Kelly spent four decades working the sunny Los Angeles trenches as a composer/arranger for film and television. He wrote music, as well, for more than five hundred television commercials. That was probably a heck of a nice way to pay the rent and put bread and butter on the table. But since his semi-retirement, he has moved into what surely must be his first musical love: big band writing and arranging.
Kelly has produced two previous big band outingsConvergence Zone (2004), which garnered a Grammy nomination, and My Museum (2006), both on Origin Records. The composer/arranger's meticulous craftsmanship and top notch songwriting chops were on full display on the two sets, as well as his ability to swing, swing, swing, like it don't mean a thing without it.
He's back at it, stronger than ever with Ballet of the Bouncing Beagles and to bolster that swing allegation, the set opens the boldly with "Play Bud Tonic," featuring on-fire solos by tenor saxophonist Pete Christlieb, trumpeter Vern Sielert, and trombonist Dan Marcus, followed by a rip-roaring, vivacious ensemble section.
The band eases off on the full force forward momentum of the opener with the light-stepping, laid-back "Limehouse Blues." A tinkly piano intro gives way to a lighter-than-air ensemble horn interlude followed by a series of elastic solosalto sax, trombone (getting down sweet and low), baritone sax (gritty and low), and trumpet, all over a supremely relaxed rhythm.
The title tune has a breezy feeling, with a conga bubble and pop in the rhythm, while "Ewe Doo on Bubbas Shoux" has a funky strut in its step and fire in its bowels. The mention of "bowels" brings up "Esto Frijoles Causa Me Falta Pasar A Los Vientos" (some fun in these tune titles). It's hot Latin romp with shifting rhythms and swirling solo/ensemble interplay.
"Grover" is a nod to the late smooth jazzer Grover Washington Jr., with lilting soprano sax work by Travis Ranney backed some Chris Alpier's masterful string programming.
The stops get pulled out on the closer, "Top Fuel Pete Vs The Trav-ski," a tenor sax blow-fest, with Christlieb, Ranney, Pete Brewer, and Randy Lee tearing up their solos, followed by a rousing full band roar, closing the show with a high octane blast on this top-notch big band outing.
Play Tonic Buds; Limehouse Blues; Ballet of the Bouncing Beagles; Ewe
Doux on Bubbas Shoe; Rainshadow; Note-o-Riot-ee" B D Bunz; Estos
Frijoles Causa Me Falta Pasar A Los Vientos; Grover; Top Fuel Pete Vs
Phil Kelly: producer, arranger, song-writer; Brad Allison: trumpet;
trumpet; Jay Thomas: trumpet; Vern Sielert: trumpet; Gary Shutes:
Marcus: trombone; Dave Marriott: trombone; Nelson Bell: trombone, bass
tuba; Jerry Dodgion: alto saxophone; Travis Ranney: alto, tenor and
saxophone; Pete Christlieb: tenor saxophone; Jim Coile: tenor
Ramsay: baritone saxophone; Pete Brewer: clarinet, baritone saxophone,
saxophone; Randy Lee: Flute, tenor saxophone; John Hansen: keyboards;
keyboards; Dave Captein: acoustic and electric bass; Grant Geissman:
Bryant: percussion; Ron Snider: percussion.
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