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John Burnett Orchestra with Special Guest Buddy DeFranco: Down For Double

Jerry D'Souza By

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John Burnett Orchestra with Special Guest Buddy DeFranco: Down For Double On his third CD as leader, conductor John Burnett pays tribute to the music of Glenn Miller, Buddy Rich, Duke Ellington and Count Basie, among others. The music here was recorded at three different times, from 2000 to 2010, but there is an underlying factor that unites it all. The John Burnett Orchestra swings mightily, abetted by some fine work from the soloists.

The makeup of the orchestra underwent changes over the years; Burnett—who calls himself the architect of the band—however, knew how to build an outfit that would stay true to his vision that a band should have its own personality, with brilliant soloists.

The charts are well-written, with judiciously placed solo spots that elevate the whole. The latest incarnation of the orchestra on the CD, gets off to a sizzling start with "In the Mood," followed by a lithe "In a Mellow Tone." The two tunes juxtapose the band's ability to filter a mood and enrich the composition's fabric. "Basically Blues" proves the point, as the band veers away from the frame, the blues given a lean permutation by the soloists—pianist Frank Caruso, trombonist Russ Phillips and tenor saxophonist Dave Kublank—with the ensemble tight and, often, quite rugged as it explodes in a myriad of colors.

A 2005 concert yields three tunes, with the 11-minute "West Side Story" being its most expansive. The music flows seamlessly, with an emotionally striking solo from tenor saxophonist Bob Frankich. Being a Buddy Rich composition, drummer Bill Byan gets his turn in the spotlight, driving the pulse with aplomb and adding more than a touch of excitement. But the overall impact comes from the orchestra as a whole, as it covers the moods effectively, warm and tender and explosive with just the right balance of sonic subtlety.

While the first nine tunes were recorded live in concert, the last three come from a 2000 studio date with clarinetist Buddy DeFranco. Burnett recorded Swinging in the Windy City (Lakeshore Jazz, 2000) with DeFranco, and this turns out to be a fine extension of that date.

DeFranco swings, but never more deliciously as he does on "Out of Nowhere," where his tone is a honeycomb of delight. The temperate pulse suits him as he cavorts over the curtain of the ensemble lines making a more marked trajectory when the band is pared down. Adding to the impact is pianist {Mike Flack, who beguiles with his lucent improvisation.

Burnett helps keep the flame of big band swing burning bright. More power to him.


Track Listing: In the Mood; In a Mellow Tone; Basically Blues; The Heat's On; Down For Double; One O'clock Jump; Wind Machine; West Side Story; Cottontail; Sing Sing Sing; Out of Nowhere; The Blues.

Personnel: John Burnett: conductor; Buddy DeFranco: clarinet; Terry Connell: trumpet; Mike McGrath: trumpet; Doug Scharf: trumpet; Scott Wagstaff: trumpet; Adam Gross: trombone; Russ Phillips: trombone; Dana Legg: trombone; Bill Walsh: bass trombone; Bob Frankich: alto saxophone; Justin May: alto saxophone; Mark Colby: tenor saxophone; David Kublank: tenor saxophone; Bruce Mack: baritone saxophone; Frank Caruso: piano; Mark Burnell; piano; Lennie Roberts: tenor saxophone; David Gross: trombone; Mike Flack: piano; Paul Martin: bass; Bill Byan: drums.

Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Delmark Records | Style: Big Band


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