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Cory Weeds Little Big Band: Explosion

C. Michael Bailey By

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Renaissance Man Cory Weeds has the Midas Touch. Since attaining Vancouver-local escape velocity with his Cellar Jazz Club and then his record label with the same imprint, the musical entrepreneur has parlayed his notice worldwide with excellent recordings of himself and other noted artists. Weeds' Cellar Jazz focus is what would be defined as an "Arbors Jazz for Hard Bop." He is very much the keeper of the flame of the last great jazz genre-period to grab the "mainstream" designation.

Weeds' previous recording, Let's Groove: The Music of Earth Wind & Fire (Cellar Live, 2017) was a well-received small combo consideration of the music of the fabled R&B band, featuring inventive arrangements and spirited, potent playing by all. On Explosion, Weeds follows the muse that created Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis' Trane Whistle (Prestige, 1960) and Gene Ammons' Late Hour Special (Prestige, 1962) to put together his "little big band" that sports eleven plays as opposed to the customary 15-18 that constitute a proper big band.

Exploration of little big bands is nothing new if one considers Miles Davis' nonet recordings that resulted in The Birth of the Cool (Capitol Records, 1998). Another example is Art Pepper's Art Pepper + Eleven: Modern Jazz Classics (Contemporary, 1959). In all of these cases, the little big bands were made to sound larger through informed arrangements. Weeds employs the talents of conductor Jill Townsend and Bill Coon on Explosion and the results are more than acceptable.

The nine selections contained herein are divided almost equally between the two arrangers, with Coon having the advantage. Coons' arrangements give his contributions a light-as-a-feather swing, one that smacks of perpetuum mobile in a global sound and rhythm with sound facile as a constant breeze. His treatment of Tommy Flanagan's "Minor Mishap" allows the soloists much room and a comfortable place to walk through. Coon's arrangement of Hank Mobley's "East of the Village" provides the piece with an urban, slightly Latin flavor that softens the hard bop edges. Weeds solos with ease, ideas coming easily. Coon addresses another hard bop gem in Kenny Dorham's "K.D.S Motion" highlighting the under-recognized talent of the trumpeter as a composer. Coon makes this blues a bright swing tune that is wide awake in the daylight.

Townsend, for her part, provides a sepia-toned "Canadian Sunset" allowing Weeds to give a nod to his inspiration. "Gene Ammons." Time shifts are seamless as baritone saxophonist "Gary Smulyan" spins his deep web of chocolate tone. Townsend gives Percy Mayfield's "Please Send Me Someone to Love" a lush '40s foundation providing Weeds the environment to present perhaps his best solo on the recording. All of the playing on this recording is top notch, hopefully making it impossible for the leader to not make a follow-up to this fine recital.

Track Listing: Minor Mishap; Soon; East of the Village; Park Avenue Petite; My Girl is Just Enough Woman for Me; Canadian Sunset; K.D.S Motion; Please Send Me Someone to Love; Ready & Able.

Personnel: Cory Weeds: tenor saxophone; PJ Perry: alto saxophone; Steve Kaldestad: tenor saxophone; Gary Smulyan: baritone saxophone; Rod Murray: trombone; Steve Davis: trombone; Joe Magnarelli: Trumpet; Chris Davis: trumpet; Chris Gestrin: piano; Paul Rushka: bass; Jessie Cahill: drums; Jill Townsend: conductor.

Title: Explosion | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Cellar Live

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