Concert-goers at Pittsburgh's Manchester Craftsmen's Guild last September-October chanced upon the best of all possible worldsterrific charts by Ernie Wilkins, Slide Hampton, Dennis Mackrel and Jimmy Heath, marvelously played by the accurately named Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band. If you aren't among those lucky enough to have been there, your luck has taken a turn for the better, as highlights from the series of incendiary performances were preserved on tape and are now available on this exhilarating release from MCG.
Make no mistake, this is an all-star band that truly deserves the label. There's a star in every chair, and they play and interact accordingly. Section work is as tight as Mackrel's snare drum, while solos are stellar from first (trumpeter Randy Brecker, alto Antonio Hart on "Dizzy's Business ) to last (baritone Gary Smulyan, trumpeter Greg Gisbert, pianist Mulgrew Miller on Thelonious Monk's quirky "Off Minor ). Trombonist Hampton, who solos twice, on Gillespie's "Con Alma and "Tour de Force, is to be commended for his leadership as well as for his colorful arrangements of Gillespie's "Blue 'n Boogie, Luiz Bonfa's "Morning of the Carnival and Hoagy Carmichael's "Stardust, all of which feature one of the best band vocalists on the scene today, Roberta Gambarini.
Gambarini enters scatting on "Boogie, showing that she's the nearest thing we now have to Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan or Carmen McRae, before she and the great James Moody engage in some spirited back-and-forth banter, preceding powerful statements by guest trumpeter Roy Hargrove and trombonist Jason Jackson. Hargrove frames a second persuasive solo on Tadd Dameron's boppish "Hot House, one of four impressive charts by Mackrel, who also anchors the band's superlative rhythm section (Miller, bassist John Lee, guitarist Marty Ashby). Hargrove's clever discourse is sandwiched between equally savvy remarks by Hart and Miller.
Heath, yet another Hall of Famer in the reed section, penned a warm tribute to Dizzy, "Without YouNo Me, on which he solos with Miller and trumpeter Claudio Roditi, and another, "Moody's Groove, for his friend and fellow tenor star (superb solos by Moody and trombonist Steve Davis, splendid vocals by Gambarini and the band). Wilkins arranged "Tour de Force, which lives up to its expansive name, and wrote and arranged "Dizzy's Business, one of this writer's favorites among his many charts.
A wonderful concert by a world-class band, well worth hearing and appreciating again and again. The luminous sound and seventy-minute playing time help clinch the deal. Not to be missed.
Track Listing: Dizzy
Personnel: 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 (3, 6): trumpet.
Year Released: 2006
| Style: Big Band