Pete McGuinness has been leading his own groups since the 1990s, but the closest he came to helming a big band was as co-leader of The Newyorkestra. He changed the pattern in September 2006 when he formed the Pete McGuinness Jazz Orchestra which, later that year, he took into the recording studio.
McGuinness shows his multiple talents on the resulting CD. He has written six of the nine compositions, all of the arrangements, sings on two and plays trombone on all. The charts open with a sound that is upfront and modern, with the ensemble lines neatly woven and with room for the soloist to take off.
The Orchestra can essay a bop burner as well as it does a ballad. Bop takes "First Flight, a swirling tune with an undercurrent of energy stoked by drummer Scott Neumann. The assembled horns slide in and intertwine lines. Chris Rogers (trumpet) makes the opening solo statement with darting lines and smears. Next Tom Christensen (tenor sax) gets into a deeper groove, a fast resolution of ideas marking his venture before McGuinness completes the circle with agile lines.
McGuinness brings in a breezy zest as he scats on "A Fond Farewell. The vocal stands in contrast to the deep tonality of Dave Rickenberg's baritone saxophone, and serves to profile the way McGuinness can construct an arrangement to give a composition dimension. "Infant Eyes is a tender ballad. The horns set up a sheen, the pulse changes subtly, and McGuinness brings in a powerful, yet elegant, presence with his textures. The orchestration adds to the lyrical mood, turning this Wayne Shorter composition into one of the best tracks on the session.
Track Listing: First Flight; Smile; Infant Eyes; Começar De Novo; Lonely Dance; Chase Scene; Spring Song; The Tricksters; A Fond Farewell.
Personnel: Pete McGuinness: trombone, vocals (2, 9); Tony Kadleck: 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; Steve Armour: trombone; Jeff Nelson: bass trombone; Mike Holober: piano; Andy Eulau: bass; Scott Neumann: drums; Paul Meyers: guitar (4).