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The Sydney All-Star Big Band: Doin' Our Thing

Jack Bowers By

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Fans of big–band Jazz may rest assured that things are swingin’ Down Under, and here’s the proof — nearly an hour of invigorating straight–ahead Jazz by the talented Sydney All–Star Big Band led by trumpeter Ralph Pyl in its long–overdue coming–out party. All but one of the nine selections on Doin’ Our Thing were written by members of the band including two (“All Clear,” “Wallflower”) by American expatriate and world–class trumpeter Don Rader. The lone exception is Frank Mantooth’s funky “If the Shew Fits.” While it took more than a decade to usher the ensemble into a recording studio (Pyl formed the band in 1990), everyone was clearly inspired by the opportunity and made the most of it. The band, in fact, is much better than the recording itself, which is no more than adequate with generally cramped sound and mediocre stereo separation. If one overlooks that flaw, however, there is much to appreciate, starting with Rader’s dynamic opener, “All Clear,” on which he and baritone Blaine Whittaker share solo honors. Graham Jesse wrote the rhythmic “Just Joshin’” and brassy “Matinee Madness,” the first featuring his alto sax with Paul Panichi’s trumpet and Gordon Rytmeister’s drums, the second Pyl’s muted trumpet, Bill Risby’s piano and the band’s two tenors, Craig Walters and Mark Taylor. Trombonist Dave Panichi’s two compositions, “Manhattan” (solos by Risby, trumpeter Paul Thorne, alto Trevor Griffin) and “Footnote” (featuring his trombone and Risby’s piano) are no less provocative, with elegant passages for brass and reeds underscoring his creative use of tempo and dynamics. Griffin wrote the scampering “See the Future” and luminous “Romantic Interlude” as part of a suite for big band. Griffin solos with Rader on “Future,” with Risby on “Interlude.” Rader’s “Wallflower,” whose blithe spirit is all but irresistible, includes eloquent comments by Don (flugel) and Jesse (soprano). Any lingering doubts that the spirit of big–band Jazz has indeed circled the globe are easily laid to rest by this superlative album, which multi–instrumentalist James Morrison, one of that country’s most renowned musicians, describes as “a milestone in Australian Jazz.” Milestone or no, it’s a marvelous statement that deserves to be widely heard and admired.

Contact:Ralwen Productions, P.O. Box 598, Avalon NSW, Australia 2107. E–mail ralwen@netspace.net.au; web site, www.ralphpyl.com


Track Listing: All Clear; Just Joshin

Personnel: Ralph Pyl, music director, trumpet, flugelhorn; Paul Panichi, Steve Williams, Paul Thorne, Don Rader, trumpet, flugelhorn; Trevor Griffin, alto sax, flute; Adrian Cunningham (7, 8), alto sax, flute, clarinet; Graham Jesse, alto, soprano sax, flute; Craig Walters, Mark Taylor, tenor sax, flute, clarinet; Blaine Whittaker, baritone sax, clarinet, bass clarinet; Bob McIvor, Anthony Kable, Dave Panichi, Colin Philpott, trombone; Bill Risby, piano; Rex Goh (4, 9), guitar; David Pudney, acoustic bass; Mark Costa (4), electric bass; Gordon Rytmeister, drums.

Title: Doin' Our Thing | Year Released: 2002 | Record Label: La Brava Music

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