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Cory Weeds Little Big Band: Explosion

Jack Bowers By

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The size and makeup of a "little big band" depend above all on what the leader has in mind. In this case, leader Cory Weeds patterned his ensemble (four brass, four reeds, three rhythm) after similar groups led by tenor saxophonists Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis and Gene Ammons, and what he had in mind was a mid-sized unit that would generate as much range and power as a full-sized orchestra.

Weeds chose the bill of fare scrupulously, as he did the musicians (eight compadres from Canada, three from the New York city area) and arrangers—the Vancouver-based husband-and-wife team of Bill Coon and Jill Townsend. Coon inscribed five of the superlative charts, Townsend the others. Although there is room for almost everyone to solo, Weeds is showcased on three numbers including one of the album's more pleasant surprises, the seldom-heard standard "My Girl Is Just Enough Woman for Me" (arranged by Coon). If Weeds doesn't sound exactly like Davis, Ammons or another of his role models, Hank Mobley, he is clearly an alumnus of the same school of straight-ahead swing from which their inspiration was drawn.

Weeds' warm tenor is front and center on Benny Golson's balladic "Park Avenue Petite" and Percy Mayfield's plaintive "Please Send Me Someone to Love" (both arranged by Townsend) and shares the stage with trombonist Steve Davis and trumpeter Joe Magnarelli on Tommy Flanagan's galvanic opener, "Minor Mishap." "Mishap" is followed by Townsend's beguiling arrangement of the Gershwin brothers classic, "Soon" (solos by Weeds and Davis). Mobley is represented by the rocking "East of the Village," Eddie Heywood by "Canadian Sunset," trumpeter Kenny Dorham by the swaggering "K.D.'s Motion." The sax section shines (individually and collectively) on the fast-paced, bop-centered finale, Jimmy Smith's "Ready & Able" (smartly arranged by Coon). Magnarelli is exemplary on "Village," baritone Gary Smulyan likewise on "Sunset," while alto PJ Perry dances nimbly on "K.D.'s Motion." The rhythm section (pianist Chris Gestrin, bassist Paul Rushka, drummer Jesse Cahill) meets every challenge head-on and always holds the winning hand.

What Weeds wanted, as noted above, was a mid-sized unit that would generate as much range and power as a full-sized orchestra. Mission accomplished. More than that, Weeds and his "little big band" have produced an album of superior straight-ahead jazz that pleases on every level. Warmly recommended.

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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