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Vaughn Nark: Flying High

Jim Santella By

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With the Airmen Of Note, trumpeter Vaughn Nark expounds in the Dizzy Gillespie tradition of fronting a big band with blazing trumpet while offering popular music that everyone can appreciate. Although the liner notes do not credit arrangers, most of the selections have "that Sammy Nestico sound." Nestico was director of the Airmen Of Note in the 1950s and early ‘60s prior to settling in with the Count Basie Orchestra. Formed on September 28, 1950 to carry on the tradition of Glenn Miller’s Army Air Corps dance band, this elite 18-piece ensemble has always maintained a reputation for quality and power. Their recordings have been issued in limited quantities over the years by the Department of the Air Force; thus, availability has always been slim to none. They’re in fine form supporting Vaughn Nark on this compilation that covers his career with the Airmen Of Note. Nark, who retired from the Air Force in 1993, now leads a quintet in the Washington, D.C. area.

Freddie Hubbard’s "Red Clay" takes on a 1970’s electric bass big band rock-jazz aura as Bobbie McCleary sings the familiar tune alongside Nark’s expressive flugelhorn feature. Like key band members on most if the arrangements, alto saxophonist Saul Miller presents a soulful interlude to complement the featured artists. Electronic sounds from keyboard and bass intermingle on a drum-heavy band arrangement of "Centri-Fusion," as Tim Eyermann lays down a soulful tenor saxophone solo and Pete BarenBregge is featured similarly on soprano. Nark’s high note trumpet passion soars into the stratosphere on "Cherokee" as alto saxophonist Joe Eckert and tenorist BarenBregge assist with up-tempo high-energy solos. The 1970s and early 1980s marked a different era for jazz, as popular music of the day surged alongside standards with fusiony timbres. Big bands of Dizzy Gillespie, Woody Herman and Buddy Rich competed at the ticket box alongside Chicago and Blood, Sweat And Tears. Recommended, Vaughn Nark’s program represents the tasteful side of that "difficult" jazz era with superb big band arrangements and stellar talent.

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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