As a licensed pilot I have fond memories of the first time I took the controls of an airplane on my solo flight and the proud sense of accomplishment one feels when you've landed alive and relieved. That enormous sense of accomplishment is what I'm sure trombonist Pete McGuinness must have felt when he launched his own big band on its First Flight with an impressive debut recording after twenty years as a sideman, composer and arranger with some of the finest big bands in the business.
For this debut, McGuinness contributes six original tunes and resurrects three old standards from the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Wayne Shorter and Ivan Lins. The Pete McGuinness Jazz Orchestra is a standard seventeen-piece big band comprised of local New York-based musicians and friends that the leader has made over a twenty year career in New York. Also included on this release is guest guitarist Paul Meyers, showcased on Lins' "Comecar De Novo, a bossa-shaded light melody featuring pianist Mike Holober in what is the best score on the album.
For his first effort, McGuinness decides to take off with the title track, an original composition that soars mightily with some woodwind afterburners featuring trumpeter Chris Rogers on a pitch solo, Tom Christensen with a yaw roll on the tenor and the pilot in command (McGuinness) throttling his trombone. The group delivers one of the best renditions of Charlie Chaplin's classic "Smile, you'll ever hear. It also features the leader on vocals and Dave Pietro on a terrific alto passage.
Shorter's "Infant Eyes has the trombonist taking the lead and center stage on a soft and delicious ballad. Perhaps one of the finest big band arrangements here may well be the straight-ahead "Spring Song, splendidly diced with a tenor solo from Jason Rigby and an appreciable contribution from Bill Mobley on flugelhorn. Other notable tunes to look out for are McGuinness' "The Trucksters, and the aptly named finale, "A Fond Farewell.
No question about it, this is one heavenly First Flight for Pete McGuinness and his Jazz Orchestra. Excellent charts and one heck of a band clear this flight from a holding pattern and puts it on a smooth approach for a graceful landing.
Track Listing: First Flight; Smile; Infant Eyes; Come
Personnel: Pete McGuinness: leader, composer, arranger, trombone, vocals (2, 9); Tony Kadleck: trumpet, flugelhorn; Jon Owens: trumpet, flugelhorn; Bill Mobley: trumpet, flugelhorn; Chris Rogers: trumpet, flugelhorn; Dave Pietro: alto sax, flute; Charles Pillow: alto sax, flute; Tom Christensen: tenor sax, clarinet, flute; Jason Rigby: tenor sax, clarinet, flute; Dave Riekenberg: baritone sax; Bruce Eidem: trombone; Mike Christianson: trombone; Steve Armour: trombone; Jeff Nelson: bass trombone; Mike Holober: piano; Andy Eulau: bass; Scott Neumann: drums; Paul Meyers (4): guitar.