For a quarter-century, Mike Barone provided arrangements for Doc Severinsen's NBC-TV Tonight Show Band, but these were seldom heard by anyone except the studio audiences for the actual telecasts (although excerpts were audible to viewers as intros and exits from commercial breaks). Since the band's dissolution more than fifteen years ago, however, Barone has been recording many of these charts with his own Los Angeles-based ensemble, and Flight of the Bumblebee is just the latest in this string of CDs for Barone's own Rhubarb Recordings label, captured in live performance last April.
On the title track, Barone gives the Rimsky-Korsakov classic a Spanish-tinged spin while paying tribute to several earlier treatments: the 1940's swing versions by Harry James and Freddy Martin (which featured the boogie-woogie piano of Jack Fina), plus Billy May's 1960's adaptation as the theme for the ABC-TV series The Green Hornet (spotlighting the trumpet artistry of Al Hirt). Pianist Andy Langham inherits Fina's solo spot, minus the boogie-woogie.
The late Neal Hefti serves as inspiration for "Easy Does It" (originally titled "Lightly") and "Slow Walkin,'" with the band in a very smooth Basie-esque groove. Veteran LA trumpeter Bob Summers handles the solo honors on the "Li'l Darlin'"-inflected "Easy Does It," while altoist Tom Luer dittoes on the "Girl Talk"-flavored "Slow Walkin.'"
"Lobbers No More" is based on the arrangements of "Just Friends" (whose harmonic changes are utilized) by both Bill Holman and Rob McConnell, as the solo spotlight is once again shared by Langham, Summers, and Luer. Fluidity of rhythmic changes characterizes "Exceptionally Moist" and the nearly century-old "Put Your Arms around Me, Honey." "Limes Away" is a Holman-esque romp based on the chord pattern of another ancient chestnut, "Limehouse Blues," while "Sprung Time" brings baritone saxophonist Brian Williams into the spotlight. The closer, "Avalon," presents a tenor sax duel between Kevin Garren and Vince Trombetta (one of two Philadelphians on the band; the other is co-lead trumpeter Tony Bonsera, a Manhattan School of Music alumnus who previously served in Philly's Brian Pastor Big Band), Bob Leatherbarrow's drums, and shouting by the full ensemble.
Flight of the Bumblebee; Easy Does It; Exceptionally Moist; Trottin'; The Other Half; Lobbers No More; Put Your Arms around Me, Honey; Limes Away; Slow Walkin'; Minus Five; Sprung Time; Avalon.
Mike Barone: Leader, composer, arranger, trombone; Tony Bonsera: trumpet; Pete DeSiena: trumpet; Adolfo Acosta: trumpet; Mark Lewis: trumpet; Bob Summers: trumpet: Charlie Loper, trombone; Dick Hamilton: trombone; Dave Ryan: trombone; George Thatcher: bass trombone; Tom Luer: alto sax, woodwinds; Keith Bishop: alto sax, woodwinds; Kevin Garren: tenor sax, woodwinds; Vince Trombetta: tenor sax, woodwinds; Brian Williams: baritone sax, woodwinds; Andy Langham: piano; David Tranchina: bass; Bob Leatherbarrow: drums.
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