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Tommy Igoe and the Birdland Big Band: Eleven

Edward Blanco By

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Tommy Igoe and the Birdland Big Band: Eleven Led by East Coast drumming icon Tommy Igoe, the Birdland Big Band delivers powerful performances each Friday night at New York's renowned Birdland jazz club. Eleven captures Igoe and some of the city's finest jazz musicians playing in the same hard-driving fashion on eleven signature arrangements of funk, Latin and contemporary jazz. This high-octane orchestra is defined by fast and furious playing from its brass, horns and hot percussion, producing a truly electrifying sound that distinguishes it from other ensembles.

Igoe and guest percussionist Rolando Morales-Matos open the lively set with a loud introduction to the decidedly Latin-tinged "New Ground," setting the stage for the swing to come. Bobby Timmons' classic "Moanin'" gets a new flavor from tenor saxophonist Rob Middleton's arrangement, which highlights bassist Tom Kennedy and special guest Rob Paparozzi on harmonica. The Latin charm is certainly in play on Chick Corea's "Armando's Rhumba." Nathan Childers' soprano saxophone voice leads the music with support from Kennedy, Barbara Cifelli on baritone saxophone, and well-placed, percussive claps. The Latin inferno continues on the steamy, fast-paced Michel Camilo tune "On Fire," showcasing a fierce drumming performance from the leader and a guest appearance from Latin jazz pianist Hector Martignon.

Borrowing from Michael Brecker's songbook, the band performs a brassy rendition of "Spherical" that features altoist Matt Hong, Middleton, and tenor man Dan Willis. The contemporary jazz sound surfaces on Don Grolnick's "Uncle Bob." Short solos from the drummer, Willis and trumpeter Glenn Drewes dot the tune, one of the purest big band charts on an album where the entire band is truly the main feature. The same can also be said of the gorgeous "Open Invitation," a mellow piece containing spurts of pronounced play from the brass and horn sections.

With most of the band being relegated to a backup role, pianist Kenny Ascher comes to the fore on Herbie Hancock's "Butterfly," the disc's only other mellow number. The album closes much like it began, with a strong, loud drum introduction followed by a solo performance on the Latin-style finale, "Alma Llanera." Eleven is certainly not a lonely number, but a double-digit dose of raw energy propelled by Tommy Igoe and his Birdland Big Band, thundering through the music like a hungry muscle-type ensemble, and providing eleven good reasons to smile.


Track Listing: New Ground; Moanin'; Common Ground; Armando's Rhumba; Got A Match?; Spherical; Uncle Bob; On Fire; Butterfly; Open Invitation; Alma Llanera.

Personnel: Tommy Igoe: drums, percussion; Tom Kennedy: acoustic bass, electric bass; Kenny Ascher: piano; Chris Jaudes: trumpet; Nick Marchione: trumpet; John Walsh: trumpet; Raul Agraz: trumpet; Glenn Drewes: trumpet; Isrea Butler: trombone; Andy Hunter: trumbone; Jeff Nelson: bass trombone; Nathan Childers: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute; Matt Hong: alto saxophone,flute; Dan Willis: tenor saxophone, flute; Rob Middleton: tenor saxophone, flute; Barbara Cifelli: baritone saxophone, flute;Rob Paparozzi: harmonica (2); Hector Martignon: piano (8); Rolando Morales-Matos: percussion, vibes (1, 6, 8, 9, 11).

Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Deep Rhythm Music | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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