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Vaughn Nark & The Airmen of Note: Flying High

David Adler By

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Vaughn Nark is a trumpet showman along the lines of Maynard Ferguson or Jon Faddis. He’s featured here with an Air Force big band called The Airmen of Note. Nark’s penchant for high-note theatrics is immediately apparent on the opener, a fast latin arrangement of Dizzy Gillespie’s "Lorraine." His control and accuracy is no less dazzling on fluegelhorn, as is demonstrated on the Freddie Hubbard ballad "Brigitte."

Nark is flashy alright, but can he swing? On Harold Danko’s "Tidal Breeze," a medium swing tempo, he’s adept but a little too perfect. The rhythm section plays ahead of the beat, which doesn’t help matters. To hear Nark at his most tasteful, jump ahead to "Con Alma." And don’t miss the strings-and-woodwinds break toward the end, a nice touch by arranger Mike Crotty.

As for the remainder, on the plus side there’s "Red Clay," featuring vocals by Bobbie McCleary; "White Christmas" done up latin-style; a mellow bossa treatment of "It Could Happen to You"; a good if unsurprising "Cherokee," and the Mike Crotty original "Night Clouds." On the minus side there’s the other Crotty original, "Centri-Fusion," with its Earth, Wind & Fire/Tower of Power funk clichés; and a banal, R&B-flavored "My Funny Valentine" with vocals by none other than Vaughn Nark himself.

The Airmen of Note are fine players — alto, tenor, and piano soloists take a bow, although it’s hard to identify you from the personnel list on the disc sleeve. Much of the arranging is also excellent. But aesthetically speaking, there’s an aroma of Vegas, or the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, permeating the album. I wouldn’t exactly call this the shape of jazz to come. As for Nark’s trumpet, it’s a thing to behold, but be warned: it’ll either thrill and delight you or give you a headache.

Cyberhome: www.summitrecords.com

Track Listing: Lorraine; Tidal Breeze; Brigitte; Red Clay; White Christmas; Con Alma; Night Clouds; Centri-Fusion; It Could Happen To You; Cherokee; My Funny Valentine.Collective

Personnel: Vaughn Nark- trumpet, flugelhorn, vocal on "My Funny Valentine"; Ken Smukal, Jimmy Lay, Rich Haering, Bruce Gates, Larry Trautman, Rich Sigler- trumpet; Dave Steinmeyer, Rick Lillard, Joe Jackson, Gary Hall, Paul Rawlins, Dudley Hinote, Doug Elliot, Dave Morgan- trombone; Joe Eckert, Lee Lachman, Gene Gaydos, Pete BarenBregge, Don New, Andy Axelrad, Doug Gately, Tim Eyermann, Saul Miller, Tom Luer- saxophone; Mike Rubin, Sydney Lehman- piano; Tom Williams, Paul Henry, Karl Heikkinen- bass; Claude Askew, George Honfa- drums; Pat Shrieves- percussion; Johnny Woody, Dan Culpepper, Winston DeShields, Paul Fisher- French horn; Bobbie McCleary- vocals; Bill Slusser, David Swanson, James Queen, Robert Waugh, Tim Kidder, Jane Bockenek, Mark Helm, Dustin Saam, Octavian Slima, Ruth Truncale- violin; Don Harrington, Paul Swantek, Sharon Bingham, Victoria Pride, Judith Thompson- viola; Laura Riley, Chris Moehlenkamp- cello; Rick Whitehead, Wayne Wilkinsen- guitar.

Additional Personnel For "My Funny Valentine":Jeff Holmes, Kevin Sharp, Sonny Hill- trumpet; Ron Wilkins, Stephen Hoy- trombone; Charlie Wicker, Larry Panella, Dave Battaglia- saxophone; Joe Cartwright- piano; Steve Rigazzi- bass; Randy Drake- drums; Bud Berthold- percussion.

Title: Flying High | Year Released: 1999

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