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Lloyd Ryan Big Band: Drivin' Force

Bruce Lindsay By

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A straight-ahead, drummer-led big band is one of the most stimulating ensemble formats in jazz. Buddy Rich's groups are perhaps the epitome of such an enterprise. The Lloyd Ryan Big Band, blasting through a selection of standards and pop classics on Drivin' Force, proudly carries on the tradition.

Ryan, a British drummer, has been a player and educator for over four decades. He's taught drummers such as Phil Collins, Ralph Salmins, Status Quo's John Coughlan, and Tim Burgess of T'Pau. His career includes work with a range of artists as diverse as Boxcar Willie, Long John Baldry and Larry Adler. He has worked with big bands such as those of Edmundo Ros and Ray Ellington, and also supported Rich's own band at the 1986 Lewisham Jazz Festival.

Ryan clearly loves the sound of the big band, and this album is the culmination of years of planning—the achievement of a lifelong ambition. He has brought together some of the UK's finest straight-ahead players for what is intended to be a one-off studio project.

The ensemble playing is consistently superb. Each section is tight and swinging, the arrangements and production ensuring that the instrumental sound is crisp and well-balanced. There's a good balance, too, between pop tunes such as Van Morrison's "Moondance" and jazz numbers like Billy Taylor's "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free" (arranged by pianist Geof Castle and given the abbreviated title of "I Wish I Knew") or Sammy Nestico's "Funtime" and "You Gotta Try."

There are some excellent solos on Drivin' Force, but sadly, the trombone, trumpet and saxophone soloists aren't identified on the CD packaging. So, hats off to Castle for a sparkling piano solo on his own composition, "One For Monk," and to the unidentified horn soloists across the album. The trombonist on "Moondance" and the tenor saxophonist and trumpeter on Bill Potts' "Big Swing Face" deserve special mention. The latter tune is featured along with Lennon and McCartney's "Norwegian Wood" on Rich's live big band album, Big Swing Face (Pacific Jazz, 1967).

The Lloyd Ryan Big Band packs enough sonic power to blow the roof and the back wall off almost any concert hall—it would be great to see it in action. Drivin' Force is a hugely enjoyable testament to the sheer fun of a swinging big band.

Track Listing: Moondance; I Wish I Knew; Norwegian Wood; Funtime; Mercy, Mercy, Mercy; You Gotta Try; Ice Castles; The Creep; Groovin Hard; Big Swing Face; Cute; One For Monk.

Personnel: Lloyd Ryan: drums; J. P. Gervasoni, Henry Amberg-Jennings, Steve Fishwick, Paul Jordanous: trumpets; Patrick Johns, Tim Smart, Adrian Fry, Nathan Gash: trombones; Matt Wates, Andy Mac, Bob Sydor, Vasilis Xenopolous, Simon Bates: saxophones; Geof Castle: piano; Rob Statham: bass.

Title: Drivin' Force | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Lyte Records

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