All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

135

The Jim Widner Big Band: Flying High...

Jack Bowers By

Sign in to view read count
Something was bothering me as I listened to “Juba,” the adrenalizing opening track on the fourth and most recent album by bassist Jim Widner’s world-class big band. It was Phil DeGreg’s piano. Not the comping—Phil’s too capable for that—but the piano itself, unusually clanky and far too prominent in the mix. Rather than chaperoning quietly in the background, the piano was drawing attention to itself—never a good sign—as alto saxophonist Dave Pietro and trumpeter Dave Scott soloed.

This was true to some extent, I found, throughout the album, which is certainly no fault of Phil’s. And we shouldn‘t focus too intensely on that blemish, as it’s about the only flaw (aside from the engineering and mixing) that one can find without a magnifying glass in an otherwise spectacular album, brilliantly performed, as always, by Widner’s superb all-star ensemble.

For starters, the choice of music is beyond reproach with captivating originals by Pietro (“Juba,” “Forgotten Dreams”), DeGreg (“Urgency”), John Pizzarelli (“Seven on Charlie”) and Kim Richmond (“Big Pocket”) complementing the enduring standards “Everything Happens to Me,” “Emily” and “Last Night When We Were Young,” the lesser- known but invigorating “Why Should I Care,“ and Ray Noble’s oft-roasted Jazz chestnut, “Cherokee.”

As for the soloists, they are consistently sharp and resourceful. Richmond (alto) is awesome on his arrangement of “Everything Happens,” trombonist Paul McKee likewise on his ballad feature, “Emily.” Richmond (clarinet) and guitarist Rick Haydon have a blast on “Charlie,” while trombonist Brett Stamps and drummer Gary Hobbs are loose and swinging on the picturesque “Big Pocket” before its rather abrupt ending.

In the liner notes, Widner mourns the passing of trombonist and charter member of the band Ron Anson, not knowing he’d soon be saying goodbye to another colossus, the great tenor man Bill Perkins, who was playing one of his last gigs and is showcased on “Last Night When We Were Young.” Haydon, McKee, Hobbs and tenor Pete Gallio help splash the war paint on “Cherokee,” which is marred (on my copy) by a number of bothersome recording glitches (there are several others, less obvious, elsewhere).

I've said nothing as yet about the ensemble as a whole, and nothing need be said, really, except to note that Widner’s band is comprised of topnotch musicians who invariably play with awareness and commitment, never miss a cue and rarely bobble a note. The trumpet section, co-led by Harner and Mike Vax, is especially dynamic (the crescendo midway through “Forgotten Dreams“ is spine-tingling), as is the rhythm section of DeGreg, Haydon, Widner and Hobbs.

Another bravura performance by Widner’s intrepid ensemble, which keeps on getting better and better.


Track Listing: Juba; Urgency; Everything Happens to Me; Emily; Forgotten Dreams; Seven on Charlie; Why Should I Care; Big Pocket; Last Night When We Were Young; Cherokee (65:55).

Personnel: John Harner, Mike Vax, Clay Jenkins, Dave Scott, Rick Stitzel (3, 8), Tijuana Julian (3), trumpet; Kim Richmond, alto sax, flute, clarinet; Dave Pietro, alto sax, flute; Bill Perkins, Pete Gallio, tenor sax, flute; Jon Stone, baritone sax, bass clarinet; Brett Stamps, Paul McKee, David Stamps, Corey Fritz (4), trombone; Eric Swanson, bass trombone; Phil DeGreg, piano; Rick Haydon, guitar; Jim Widner, bass; Gary Hobbs, drums.

Title: Flying High... | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: Chase Music Group

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
And the Beat Goes On

And the Beat Goes On

Chase Music Group
2013

buy
Out of This World

Out of This World

Chase Music Group
2007

buy
 

Flying High...

Chase Music Group
2004

buy

Related Articles

Read Seymour Reads The Constitution! CD/LP/Track Review
Seymour Reads The Constitution!
by Doug Collette
Published: May 23, 2018
Read Colours of Sound CD/LP/Track Review
Colours of Sound
by Jack Bowers
Published: May 23, 2018
Read A Blast From The Past CD/LP/Track Review
A Blast From The Past
by Roger Farbey
Published: May 23, 2018
Read Rhapsody CD/LP/Track Review
Rhapsody
by Glenn Astarita
Published: May 23, 2018
Read You're Driving Me Crazy CD/LP/Track Review
You're Driving Me Crazy
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: May 23, 2018
Read Dirt...And More Dirt CD/LP/Track Review
Dirt...And More Dirt
by Karl Ackermann
Published: May 22, 2018
Read "Autumn Tales" CD/LP/Track Review Autumn Tales
by Chris Mosey
Published: June 20, 2017
Read "Paint" CD/LP/Track Review Paint
by Jerome Wilson
Published: October 16, 2017
Read "Parrots Paradise" CD/LP/Track Review Parrots Paradise
by Glenn Astarita
Published: December 8, 2017
Read "That Doesn't Even Look Like You" CD/LP/Track Review That Doesn't Even Look Like You
by Jack Bowers
Published: December 6, 2017
Read "Jubilation! Celebrating Cannonball Adderley" CD/LP/Track Review Jubilation! Celebrating Cannonball Adderley
by Glenn Astarita
Published: May 20, 2018
Read "Latin Lover" CD/LP/Track Review Latin Lover
by Rob Rosenblum
Published: November 18, 2017