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Larry Gillespie and the Manhattan Jazz Orchestra: Contour

Jack Bowers By

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Although Larry Gillespie shares his surname with another well–known trumpeter, his musical persona is modeled more closely after the quintessential West Coast snowman, Chet Baker. This extends, alas, to Gillespie’s fondness for singing, which he does — sort of — on “I Remember You” while scatting on “Contour” and the aptly named “Let’s Try.” The band’s other vocalist, Francina Connors, doesn’t fare appreciably better on “Too Close for Comfort,” “A Sleepin’ Bee” or Tadd Dameron’s “If You Could See Me Now” (although her eagerness almost eclipses her other shortcomings). The half–dozen instrumentals are far more engaging, especially the duo (Joe Puma’s “Just for You,” Dori Caymmi’s “So Louco”) that showcase the superb trombonist Eddie Bert, one of a number of top–notch sidemen (and women) whose presence bespeaks the band’s tremendous potential. Also in the winning category are Cole Porter’s “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To” (built around razor–keen solos by Gillespie and pianist Knight), Sonny Stitt’s sinuous “Eternal Triangle” (on which drummer Campenni incites Gillespie, Armacost and fellow tenor Karn), the boppish “How Would You Feel?” (with Karn and trumpeter Eckert glowing) and a Latinized version of “Angel Eyes” (featuring Armacost’s expressive tenor). Gillespie has drawn deep from New York City’s seemingly bottomless talent pool, and while there are a few rough edges it’s only a matter of time and a few more rehearsals before he and the band iron them out. This is a more than respectable debut, and we look forward to hearing whatever Gillespie does next (especially — hint, hint — if it’s an all–instrumental date with a solo or two by the band’s marvelous baritone saxophonist, Claire Daly).

Track listing: Contour; I Remember You; Just for You; Too Close for Comfort; Let’s Try; Angel Eyes; A Sleepin’ Bee; How Would You Feel?; You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To; So Louco; The Eternal Triangle; If You Could See Me Now (48:24).


Personnel:

Larry Gillespie, music director, trumpet, flugelhorn, vocals; Randy Eckert, Rob Slowick, Jonathan J. Owens, Jim Seely, Asa Handy, trumpet, flugelhorn; Todd Bashore, Paul Hanegan, alto sax, flute; Tim Armacost, Michael Karn, tenor sax; Grazia Di Giorgio, tenor sax (5); Claire Daly, baritone sax; Britt Woodman, Britta Langsjoen, Eddie Bert, trombone; Dale Turk, bass trombone; Joe Knight, piano; Bim Strassberg, bass; Mike Campenni, drums; Francina Connors, vocals.

Contact: Blue Lion Music, P.O. Box 5092, Bergenfield, NJ 07621

Title: Contour | Year Released: 1999


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