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Ed Puddick Big Band / Frank Macchia / Rick Wald NY 16

Jack Bowers By

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If you're in the mood for big band jazz with a twist—make that a lot of twists, not to mention unanticipated turns—this second album by composer and arranger Rick Wald's 16 / NYC should tickle your ivories and set your heart aflutter. Wald says he likes to suggest "moods" when composing, and the moods here range from sociable to somber with a number of unforeseen detours along the way. That's true not only of Wald's five originals but his fresh looks at Herbie Hancock's "Maiden Voyage," Wayne Shorter's "Prince of Darkness" and the venerable Swing Era staple, "Stompin' at the Savoy," each of which is spruced up by Wald's resourceful eye and ear.

Despite the presence of "Savoy," there's no Count Basie-style swing on these premises, nor are there any spine-tingling shout choruses. The closest the ensemble comes to spreading its wings is on the up-tempo "Gonna Getcha," but even here the impression is one of studiously controlled intensity rather than unbridled power. "Savoy" is more waltz going on foxtrot than flag-waver, while "Maiden Voyage" and "Prince of Darkness" are taken at a considerably slower pace than is usually the norm. "Play That Thing" is quirkily animated, with brisk ad libs by pianist Ted Kooshian, alto Lou Marini and drummer Jeff Brillinger, while Kooshian, trombonist Noah Bless, tenor Adam Kolker and baritone Terry Goss are suitably articulate on the scampering "Gonna Getcha." In the liner notes, Wald writes that the 16 / NYC is "the best band I've ever had," a sentiment that is readily confirmed by the presence of blue-chip sidemen in every chair. Play That Thing was recorded, he writes, "live, with no over-dubs." The sound is clear and well-defined, and there are no audible lapses or missteps.

As to the music, that's a matter of personal taste. It's explicitly challenging, and those who'd prefer to be washed along on a tidal wave of turbulence and tension may find Wald's provocative charts less than persuasive, whereas the more serious listener should find them consistently rewarding. Wald is well-versed in the use of color and dynamics, and the ensemble readily masters every nuance. Unison passages are hermetic, soloists lucid and admirable. Besides those already named, they include trumpeters John Eckert and Jack Walrath, trombonists Art Baron and Sam Burtis, alto Loren Stillman, tenor Ted Nash and bassist Chip Jackson. Wald contributes a forceful alto solo on his lyrical composition, "Quascau."

Those who've heard the group's debut album, Castaneda's Dance, will know basically what to expect from Play That Thing. Those who haven't may be pleasantly surprised by their introduction to Rick Wald and his accomplished sixteen-member ensemble.

Brooks Tegler Big Band

That's It!

Maxngruber Records

2010

That's It!, drummer Brooks Tegler's first recording as leader of his own band, is a tenaciously swinging, smile-inducing salute to some of the big-band giants who helped define the genre, with each of the session's 18 tracks devoted to the music of Basie, Benny Carter, Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Woody Herman, Gene Krupa, Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw or Duke Ellington. Eschewing for the most part the better-known numbers from their books, Tegler and the band remind listeners who weren't fortunate enough to have been alive during the Big Band Era why these and other bands were so enormously popular, drawing sellout audiences to their concerts and other performances on a nightly basis in cities and towns from coast to coast, and why their music continues to be performed so many years after the big bands supposedly died.

The album's freewheeling opener and title selection is a tribute to the Dorsey band, as is Bill Finnegan's melodic "Pussy Willow." Herman is represented by his groovy "Ingie Speaks" and Shorty Rogers' scampering "Keeper of the Flame," Goodman by "If Dreams Come True" and "Goodnight My Love," the latter nicely sung by Lynn McCune who is also heard on "I Have Eyes" from the Artie Shaw library. Jim Stephanson is the vocalist on "Now I Know" (Miller) and "Alright, Okay, You Win" (Basie). The Count earns three citations in all ("John's Idea" and "Sweetie Cakes" are the others), as does the Duke ("Jack the Bear," "Hiya Sue," "Such Sweet Thunder"). Earnest salutes to Benny Carter ("Slow Freight"), Miller ("SNAFU Jump") and Krupa ("Gypsy Mood") complete the handsome program. If there's no Gene Krupa in Tegler's band, there's at least a Jen Krupa (no relation that we know of; she's from Canada), a stalwart member of the trombone section who solos on the three tributes to Ellington.

Speaking of soloists, Tegler has a number of fluent improvisers, most notably trumpeters Kenny McGee, Randy Reinhart and Vince McCool; clarinetist Joe Midiri, alto Marty Nau, tenors Scott Silbert (channeling Zoot Sims on "That's It!") and Don Lerman (alto solos on "Ingie Speaks" and "John's Idea"), baritone Leigh Pilzer and trombonist Paul Midiri (vibes solos on "Goodnight My Love" and "Keeper of the Flame"). Tegler, bassist Tommy Cecil, guitarist Tommy Mitchell (seven numbers) and pianists Larry Eanet or Robert Redd comprise a solid rhythm section. For big band lovers of every age, background and persuasion.

Dutch Swing College Band

My Inspiration

Pink Records

2010

When the Dutch Swing College Band was formed in 1945, World War II was still being fought in the Pacific and bebop was in its infancy. Some 66 years on, the DSCB is still doing its thing, touring European cities, recording new albums (at least twenty-eight so far), and most of all, swinging in a style made popular in the 1920s and '30s. In other words, this is plain-spoken Dixieland jazz, performed with dexterity and enthusiasm by a well-seasoned group whose lineup seldom changes.

The band (actually an octet) was led for 45 years by its founder, clarinetist Peter Schilperoort, who died in 1990. Since then, the DSCB has been led by another clarinetist, Bob Kaper, who joined the band in 1967. A glance at some of the song titles on My Inspiration—"Limehouse Blues," "China Boy," "My Gal Sal," "Royal Garden Blues"—exposes decisive evidence of what the band is about. Also on the enticing menu are a pair of compositions by Lil Hardin Armstrong (Armstrong), "Tears" and "Perdido Street Blues," the first co-written with her then-husband, Louis, and others by Bob Haggart ("My Inspiration"), Bronislau Kaper ("Somewhere Somehow"), Django Reinhardt ("Nuages") and the Hollywood songwriting team of Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn ("I've Heard That Song Before").

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