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Jim Manley: Eight

Nicholas F. Mondello By

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Jim Manley: Eight St. Louis has generously given the music world some of its all-time great jazz musicians (OK, and great ballplayers too!)—from Miles Davis, and Clark "Mumbles" Terry to two Olivers (Nelson and Lake), and many others. It could be said that the city gave these stars lovingly. With Eight, the jazz world gets yet another gift from St. Louis (in addition to baseball's Stan), who can also be respectfully and accurately designated as "the man." And, here Jim Manley demonstrates why he is called so.

High-note trumpeting is rarified air. Many are called to scream and fly, but few are indeed chosen. They are the ones having the chops and musicianship to make the altissimo bravissimo. Manley marvelously proves he can indeed do it "up there" and "out there"—as a musician first and foremost and monster lead and scream trumpeter. This album is a gem of trumpet scream skills, great jazz improvisations, tight ensemble playing, and terrific musicianship.

In Eight—his eighth CD performed by an octet that sounds bigger and ballsier than that—Manley demonstrates (admirably so) that he is first and foremost a great trumpeter, leader and musician. He stands colossus-like on the platform set up by Maynard Ferguson, Bud Brisbois, Cat Anderson, Bill Chase, and other screamers. And, he's got a great sense of the quirk in his tune selection—it all works superbly.

From the "Sister Sadie" inspired start of "Preach and Teach," Manley and his Eight crew provide a baker's dozen of in-your-face swing and scream. And this thirteen is all taste. There's plenty of good humor here, as well, with "Theme from Rocky and Bullwinkle" an example of great fun and playing all around. Some of those old '60s cartoon shows featured soundtracks and themes played by Hollywood's best studio musicians, with Larry Johnson's tenor and Jason Swagler's alto making the "I've Got Rhythm" burner fly.

Manley knows his big band roots well. His "I'll Be Seeing You" has the trumpeter covering the standard in a manner that Doc Severinsen would, with a tasty solo that displays a non-scream dimension and a "Seeing the Light" quote. The Count Basie warhorse, "One O'Clock Jump," gets a fresh face here: Manley's Harmon takes the group out, pianist John Pyatt sends up a nice solo, while the ensemble builds momentum behind another Larry Johnson solo, with trombonist Jim Owens shining on a nice chorus. There's a very Woody Herman-esque effect here.

"Ain't Necessarily So" and "Just Friends" shine. Manley's melodic take on these tunes is superb.

Manley and the producers deserve kudos for the eclectic array of selections on the session. Who has the creative smarts to include "Theme from Rocky and Bullwinkle," "Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead," and the "Theme from Perry Mason"? Each is a stellar arrangement—no novelties here, just great, smart writing and marvelous playing. The juxtaposition of these selections with the standards is production genius.

Eight is a terrific CD. Not only will trumpeters thrill to Manley's Maynard-esque chops, but all who enjoy great jazz will, too.

Track Listing: Preach and Teach; Theme from Rocky and Bullwinkle; I'll Be Seeing You; Come Rain or Come Shine; One O'Clock Jump; It Ain't Necessarily So; Just Friends; Theme from Perry Mason; Ding Dong the Witch is Dead; My Romance; Stella By Starlight; Alice In Wonderland; Thirsty Night Blues.

Personnel: Jim Manley: trumpet; Frank Goessler: trumpet; Dan Smith: trumpet; Rob Nugent: alto saxophone; Jason Swagler: alto saxophone; Larry Johnson: tenor saxophone; Larry smith: tenor saxophone; Jim Owens: trombone; John Pyatt: piano; Greg Trampe: organ, strings; Travis Mattison: guitar; Zeb Briskovich: upright bass; Joe Weber: drums.

Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Victoria | Style: Big Band


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