Even though Jack Cortner has been making a living as a musician in New York City for more than 45 years, Fast Track is the first-ever big band album with his name as leader. No, Cortner isn't a late bloomer. The composer, arranger and former trumpeter has simply been too busy with other pursuits, such as writing and arranging for the musical theatre, television and broadcast commercials (otherwise known as jingles). Along the way, Cortner wrote the themes for the soap operas The Edge of Night and As the World Turns, and arranged the theme used for years on ABC-TV's Monday Night Football.
While these and other enterprises definitely put a jingle in his pockets, Cortner's love for jazz never waned, nor did his forty-year friendship with trumpeter Marvin Stamm, for whom he had written a number of arrangements over the years. When Cortner decided to produce a big-band album, Stamm readily agreed to sign on as guest soloist. Had Cortner organized a dragnet and issued an all-points bulletin, he couldn't have made a wiser choice. Even though Stamm is not a household name, and is routinely ignored in the media's "popularity" polls, he is beyond any doubt one of the most talented and resourceful trumpeters on the scene, and has been for years.
Stamm is in splendid form here, ably supported by Cortner's A-list of New York-area musicians and sparkling solos by saxophonist Dave Tofani, trombonist Jim Pugh, pianist Bill Mays and drummer Jim Riley. Cortner's charts are consistently upbeat and pleasurable, including two ("Secret Love," "Lover Man") written especially for Stamm to use in his concerts and as teaching aids. Besides those charmers, they include the standards "Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise" and "Limehouse Blues," Ferde Grofé's popular "On the Trail" (from the Grand Canyon Suite) and five of Cortner's well-framed original compositions. Stamm wrote the flashy opener, "Who's 'at Talkin.'"
There's not much to censure here. The music is bright and agreeable, the ensemble first- class, recorded sound clean and well-balanced, playing time generous. Above all, Stamm is a model of taste and consistency, a proficient craftsman who always comes to play and makes every note count. His commanding presence is reason enough to endorse Cortner's long-overdue debut.
Who's 'at Talkin'; Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise; Ballad for Betsy; Etude; Secret Love; On the Trail; Limehouse Blues; Slowdown; Flimfam Ma'am; Fast Track; Lover Man (57:18).
Bob Millikan, Brian O'Flaherty, Danny Cahn, Tony Kadleck, Bud Burridge (4,5,8,9,11):
trumpet; Lawrence Feldman, Jerry Dodgion, Dave Tofani, Dennis Anderson, Kenny Berger,
Ronnie Cuber (4,11): reeds; Jim Pugh, Tony Studd, Birch Johnson, Bruce Bonvissuto (4,11):
trombone; Bill Mays: piano; Jeff Mironov: guitar; Jay Anderson, Martin Wind (4,11): bass; John
Riley: drums. Guest soloist: Marvin Stamm: trumpet, flugelhorn.