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Emerald City Jazz Orchestra: Come Rain or Come Shine

Jack Bowers By

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A rule of thumb for any artistic endeavor is that a sequel is seldom as good as the original. The qualifier "seldom must be used because there are occasional exceptions to the rule. As luck would have it, here comes one now—the Emerald City Jazz Orchestra's remarkable followup to its debut album, Alive and Swingin'! (SMP 0004). In reviewing that earlier enterprise, I noted that "section work is immaculate, soloists are superb, and the rhythm section simply kicks ass. I happy to report that nothing has changed.

Well, that's not entirely true; there have been a couple of changes, but for the better. Baritone saxophonist Matso Limtiaco, who authored nine of the thirteen exemplary charts on Swingin'!, has written all of them this time, while the ECJO has picked up another stellar soloist, veteran trumpeter Vern Sielert. Besides being a superb arranger, Limtiaco is a capable improviser too, as he shows on Wayne Shorter's "Infant Eyes and Duke Ellington's "In a Mellow Tone.

Shorter is represented as well by "Speak No Evil and "Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum, Count Basie by "Jumpin' at the Woodside, Dizzy Gillespie by "Manteca, tenor saxophonist Johnny Griffin by "Call It Whatchawanna (showcasing one of the band's stylish tenors, Travis Ranney). Limtiaco also arranged the standards "Stella by Starlight, "Body and Soul (another feature for Ranney) and "Come Rain or Come Shine, plus the traditional hymn "Amazing Grace, which he dedicated to those who lost their lives in NYC on September 11, 2001.

The album's only recent composition, "Blues #3, was written by Limtiaco to spotlight the rhythm section (with crisp solos by bassist Steve Messick, drummer Ken French and pianist Reuel Lubag). While each of Limtiaco's charts is enticing, I was especially charmed by the quicker tempo on "Mellow Tone, which is here more assertive than mellow (as is Matso's solo), and the funky framework on "Body and Soul, which handsomely complements Ranney's evocative tenor. "Woodside doesn't sound a whole lot like Basie's classic theme but is nonetheless sharp and swinging on its own terms.

Limtiaco says he tried to choose songs with great blowing opportunities for the soloists, and so he has. Besides those already mentioned, the resourceful ad-libbers include trombonists Nathan Vetter, Dan Marcus and Vic Anderson; altos Ben Roseth and Mark Taylor; and tenor Cliff Colon, who burns rubber on "Manteca, "Fee-Fi and "Woodside. The ensemble, as noted, is consistently trim and poised, vanquishing Limtiaco's strenuous charts with unflappable assurance.

The group's leader (and lead trumpeter), Kevin Seeley, writes in the liners that during the two recording sessions "no tune was played more than twice, and half of these tunes we caught on the first take! What a band! I'll second that. The studio sound is generally acceptable, the 78:55 playing time exemplary. Another slam dunk by the well-endowed ECJO, and one of the more impressive big band albums of the year.


Track Listing: Speak No Evil; Blues #3; Come Rain or Come Shine; Infant Eyes; Call It Whatchawanna; Stella by Starlight; Manteca; Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum; In a Mellow Tone; Body and Soul; Amazing Grace; Jumpin

Personnel: Kevin Seeley, leader, trumpet; Greg Lyons, Peter Green (6), Vern Sielert, Randy Burgeson, John Fricke, trumpet; Ben Roseth, Mark Taylor (1,4,5,8-10), Vanessa Sielert, Cliff Colon, Travis Ranney (1,4,5,8-10), Andrew Glynn, Steve Reincke (6), Matso Limtiaco, reeds; Vic Anderson, Greg Koehler (6), Nathan Vetter, Dan Marcus, Stuart Hambley (6), Bud Parker, trombone; Reuel Lubag, piano; Steve Messick, bass; Ken French, drums.

Title: Come Rain or Come Shine | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Pony Boy Records

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