This is a "ghost band" in the midst of an exorcism. Dizzy's ghost is almost gone. Past editions of this band featured Jon Faddis, Dizzy's most faithful acolyte, on trumpet, carrying the torch. No torch carriers here: sans Faddis, the other trumpeters obviously feel no compunction to channel Dizzy bop lines in their solos. And while previous bands dug heavily into the archives for charts, this band only uses two charts from the Dizzy Big Band eraboth Ernie Wilkins arrangements that would sound just as at home in Count Basie's Orchestra, which Wilkins also arranged forpreferring new takes on Dizzy's repertoire.
Let's admit it: If it weren't for the twisted economics of jazz today, this would be called the Slide Hampton Big Band, because it's Hampton's sensibilities that shape the sound of this orchestra, not Dizzy's. That's most evident in the tempos; where Dizzy opted for up and raging, Hampton opts for slower and showier, with emphasis on suave finish and sophistication trumping visceral excitement. Hampton is like the head coach on an NFL team, so even though others arrange tunes, he controls the overall sound.
Take "Con Alma, a Gillespie classic here arranged by drummer Dennis Mackrel in a mellow mood far distant from Dizzy's hot recordings, although just as convincing. Roy Hargrove guests on trumpet on two tracks, channeling Harry "Sweets Edison on one, while the trombonists shine on numerous solo turnsafter all, Slide is a trombonist.
Roberta Gambarini sings on four tracks, introducing another elementfemale vocalsrarely heard in Dizzy's bands. She's delightful, whether scatting alone or trading licks with James Moody, and she's formidable on "Stardust, no easy song to reclaim from clichés. But her triumph is the bossa "Manha de Carnival, in an exquisite Slide Hampton arrangement.
Slide Hampton: director, arranger, trombone; Frank Greene, Greg Gisbert, Randy Brecker: trumpet; Claudio
Roditi: trumpet, percussion; Frank Wess, Antonio Hart: alto sax, flute; Jimmy Heath: tenor sax; James Moody:
tenor sax, flute, vocals; Gary Smulyan: baritone sax; Jason Jackson, Steve Davis: trombone; Jay Ashby:
trombone, percussion; Douglas Purviance: bass trombone; Mulgrew Miller: piano; Marty Ashby: guitars; John
Lee: bass; Dennis Mackrel: drums; Roberta Gambarini: vocals. Special guest artist: Roy Hargrove: trumpet (3,6).