141

The John La Barbera Big Band: Fantazm

Jack Bowers By

Sign in to view read count
The John La Barbera Big Band: Fantazm
Fantazm is the second album by the John La Barbera Big Band, following last year's impressive debut, On the Wild Side. While the songs are new, almost everything else, we are happy to report, remains invariable—even the band's personnel is essentially the same, with guitarist Larry Koonse added on two tracks. La Barbera's charts (he arranged everything) are once again superb, his hand-picked crew of West Coast heavyweights deciphers them flawlessly, and John's brothers, tenor saxophonist Pat and drummer Joe, are key players without whose singular talents the enterprise would surely have been far less persuasive. Pat solos admirably on five of the eight tracks, while Joe earnestly supervises the band's turbo-powered rhythm section.

Besides conducting and arranging, the great John L wrote "Pythodd Fellows, "Over F and "Zin Zak, which are among the album's highlights. Brother Pat penned another medal-winner, "Yours or Mine or Blues, and suggested to John his sensuous tenor feature "My Love and I (David Raksin/Johnny Mercer's love theme from the film Apache). The African-framed title song, another exotic showcase for Pat, this time on soprano sax, is a lesser-known Ellington work from 1948. The album opens with the late trumpeter Woody Shaw's bustling "Moontrane and closes with a pop tune, Mister Mr's "Kyrie, enlivened by Wayne Bergeron's soaring lead trumpet and Bob Sheppard's torrid tenor saxophone.

"Pythodd Fellows, inspired by a social club in Rochester, New York, "the first place, John writes, "that my brothers and I ever heard real, live jazz, places an organ trio (the amazing Bill Cunliffe, moving from the keyboard; Koonse on guitar, brother Joe on drums) in the center of a bluesy big band arrangement that cooks from start to finish. "Over F, flavored by the Brazilian Frevo, embodies the energy and euphoria of a South American carnival, while "Zin Zak, dedicated to John's close friend and publishing attorney, the late Joseph Zynczak, scurries straight ahead behind a charming melody and ardent solos by Cunliffe (piano), Kim Richmond (alto) and Andy Martin (trombone).

Pat's "Blues, which features his tenor complementing trumpeter Clay Jenkins and trombonist Bob McChesney, is "a cross between a C minor and F minor blues with a couple of extra bars thrown in for good measure. Whatever the recipe, the cuisine is mouth-watering. Jenkins shines again on "Moontrane, as does Sheppard (soprano) on "Over F.

In sum, a tasteful and rewarding contemporary big band album and a worthy successor to Wild Side. If there's a fly in the ointment, it's that John L's charts and the band itself sometimes outpace the recording, whose gauzy "concert hall sound tends to lessen inner clarity and amplify the ensemble at the expense of soloists. But that's the only glitch in an otherwise exemplary endeavor, one that's warmly recommended in spite of it.

Track Listing

Moontrane; Pythodd Fellows; Over F; My Love and I (Love Theme from Apache); Zin Zak; Yours or Mine or Blues; Fantazm; Kyrie. (55:08)

Personnel

John La Barbera, composer, arranger, conductor; Wayne Bergeron, trumpet, flugelhorn; Dennis Farias, Bob O'Donnell, Clay Jenkins, trumpet; Brian Scanlon, Kim Richmond, alto, soprano sax, flute; Bob Sheppard, Pat La Barbera, tenor, soprano sax; Bob Carr, baritone sax, bass clarinet; Alex Iles, Charlie Morillas, Bob McChesney, Andy Martin (5), trombone; Ken Kugler, bass trombone; Larry Koonse (2, 3), guitar; Bill Cunliffe, keyboards, Hammond B-3 organ; Tom Warrington, bass; Joe La Barbera, drums; Scott Breadman, percussion.

Album information

Title: Fantazm | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Jazz Compass

Post a comment about this album

Tags

Shop Amazon

More

Read Hug!
Hug!
Matt Wilson Quartet
Read Touch & Go
Touch & Go
Susan Tobocman
Read The Ilkley Suite
The Ilkley Suite
Jamil Sheriff
Read Moving Through Worlds
Moving Through Worlds
Fiona Joy Hawkins
Read Data Lords
Data Lords
Maria Schneider Orchestra
Read Sleepy Town
Sleepy Town
Jamie Pregnell
Read Momento
Momento
Dave Milligan
Read Peace
Peace
Spirit Fingers

All About Jazz needs your support

Donate
All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, shelter in place and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary effort that will help musicians now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the bottom right video ad). Thank you.

Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.