If the name Bobby Burgess sounds vaguely familiar, you may remember him as an outstanding trombonist with the Stan Kenton and Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestras and big bands led by Woody Herman, Buddy Rich and others before he moved to Germany in the early ’70s. Bobby played with a number of Germany’s leading ensembles, chiefly the South German Radio Big Band, and when he formed his own band in 1987 it followed logically that he would create it in their dynamic image using many of the most capable big–band musicians that country had to offer. He called his ensemble the Bobby Burgess Big Band Explosion, and led it until his premature death last year. The band recorded twice, and Butters Idea, from 1994, is the earlier of the two. The title derives from Bobby’s nickname, Butter, which in turn alludes to the velvet–smooth sound of his trombone. The band’s buoyant frame of reference is bound securely to the swinging legacy of Kenton, Herman and Rich with radiant compositions and/or arrangements by Don Menza, Bill Holman, Mike Barone, Bill Dobbins, Frank St. Peter (“Burgess Surges”) and sidemen Paul Heller (“Waltz for Alexandra”), Stephan Zimmermann (“Healing Forces”) and Martin Schrack (“Without Words”). Burgess, always the unassuming anchor, grants almost everyone else a moment or two in the sun while taking only two relatively brief solos himself, muted on Holman’s fiery “Butters Idea” and open on “Shuffle Kings,” which was also written and arranged by Holman. Menza contributed the loose–limbed opener, “Groove Blues,” and Dobbins arranged Ellington/Irving Mills’ “In a Sentimental Mood” as a luminous feature for baritone saxophonist Steffen Schorn. That precedes the truly inspired finale, fellow trombonist Mike Barone’s sparkling samba–like treatment of a most unlikely but no less absorbing Jazz vehicle, Cole Porter’s “My Heart Belongs to Daddy.” Equally entrancing are Schrack’s whimsical “Words,” St. Peter’s high–powered “Burgess Surges” and Heller’s lyrical “Waltz for Alexandra.” The ensemble is strapping and blemish–free, the rhythm section (Schrack, Wiedmann, Höfler, Nell) sharp and supple, and the soloists — including Schorn, Wiedmann, Heller, Schrack, Zimmernann, Malle, Graf, Strempel, Sauerborn, Hesse and trombonists Petzold and Mears — bright–eyed and resourceful. In sum, the very model of an explosive modern big band.
Track listing: Groove Blues; Burgess Surges; Waltz for Alexandra; Butters Idea; Healing Forces; Shuffle Kings; Without Words; In a Sentimental Mood; My Heart Belongs to Daddy (56:17).
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