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The cover art on trumpeter John Blount's Better Days Ahead depicts glorious sunshine. Visually beautiful, it is most appropriate for this CDwhich will probably help propel Blount, Dave Tucker and the New Big Band to great things and better days ahead.
Blount spent decades as lead trumpeter and featured soloist with the U.S. Navy's elite Commodores Big Band. He shows here that he is indeed a master of his instrument, from the mellowest lower tones to the Holy Grail of lead trumpetingthe Double High C. This is a tour de force for Blount, whose engaging sound and virtuosity solidifies his place among the best of the best.
Backed by drummer Dave Tuckerwho swings and drives beautifully throughoutand A-1 musicians and soloists, Blount and his team offer a dozen excellent big band jazz selections. They range from a Hollywood movie theme ("The Bad and the Beautiful") to jazz classics (Joseph "King" Oliver's "West End Blues"with Blount covering Louis Armstrong's classic solo introand "My One and Only Love," Allen Vizzutti's "Firedance" and John Coltrane's "Naima") to modern selections from guitarist Pat Metheny ("Better Days Ahead" and "Last Train Home"). Of particular interest was "On Green," an original with subtle shades of "On Green Dolphin Street." The arrangements are highly challengingfor example, the Supersax-style solos on "Tube of Blues" and the ensemble "scat" on "Tropicale." The charts allow the ensemble to display its wonderful swing and give its soloists ample room to stretch out with inventive solo foraysguitarist Rich Roeder in particular. All of the players shine.
The production quality is very good, certainly not an easy task with Blount, a powerhouse of sound and excitement, soaring over the ensemble. It all blends beautifully.
Better Days Ahead is an excellent example of terrific big band jazz and incredible trumpet virtuosity. Blount earns his stripes, proving he belongs in the same virtuosity "boat" as Doc Severinsen, Wayne Bergeron, Allen Vizzutti, Bobby Shew, Arturo Sandoval, and, yes, Maynard Ferguson. All aboard that's going aboard with Better Days Ahead. A most enjoyable venture.
Track Listing: A Tube of Blues; Tropicale; The Bad and the Beautiful; West End Blues; Better Days Ahead; Naima; Firedance; My One and Only Love; On Green; Profile of a Trumpet Player; When Ya Gotta Go, Ya Gotta Go; Last Train Home.
Personnel: John Blount: trumpet and flugelhorn; Walt Borys: alto I; Rich Burns: alto II; Dave Schiff, Bruce Swaim: tenor sax I; Kyle Coughlin: tenor sax II; Leigh Pilzer: baritone sax; Chris Walker: trumpet I, Dave Makowiecki: assistant lead and trumpet II, Jack Garner: trumpet III; Randy Martell: trumpet IV; Dan Drew: trombone I; Mike Bravin, Milton Aldana: trombone II; Jay Bravin: trombone III; Cindy Cash: bass trombone; Harry Appleman: piano; Chris Hofer: bass; Rich Roeder: guitar; Dave Tucker: drums.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.