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The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra: Forever Lasting - Live in Tokyo

Edward Blanco By

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The Thad Jones / Mel Lewis Orchestra, the New York big band founded in 1966, loved to tour Japan resulting in its popular 1974 release of Live In Tokyo (Denon). Continuing the tradition of playing Monday nights at New York's Village Vanguard, as well as performing in Japan, The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra—as the Thad Jones / Mel Lewis Orchestra has been known for decades—presents Forever Lasting—Live In Tokyo a double-CD set capturing a recent live recording in Tokyo. Led by trombonist and director John Mosca, the band performed six sets and 38 charts during a three-night stint at the Billboard Live Tokyo club, just three months before the March, 2011 earthquake tragedy.

Mosca whittled the repertoire for this recording to down to thirteen pieces, across the two discs, with some personnel changes made due to prior engagements. Tenor saxophonist Rich Perry is replaced by the phenomenal Walt Weiskopf, with Michael Weiss substituting for regular pianist. Jim McNeely, The album also marks the VJO recording debut of bassist David Wong and trumpeter Tanya Darby.

Composed and arranged by co-founder Jones, the high-gear "Low Down" is the band's opening salvo, providing trumpeter Scott Wendholt the honor of blowing the house down. Tenor saxophonists Weiskopf and Ralph Lalama engage in a sax chase, providing the energy on "You Tell Me," to the cheers of an appreciative audience. The big band sound comes alive on the Bob Mintzer arrangement of Herbie Hancock's "One Finger Snap," giving Weiss and trombonist Luis Bonilla a chance to shine.

There are quite a few lengthy pieces, with "61st and Rich' It" clocking in at almost fifteen minutes; while "Extra Credit," and "Central Park North" both swing for over twelve minutes, they pale in comparison to the nearly nineteen-minute "Fingers."

Reed man Dick Oatts, on flute, and trumpeter Terell Stafford, on flugelhorn, collaborate with inspiring results on the beautiful love ballad "Don't Ever Leave Me," one of the highlights of the recording. Bob Brookmeyer's "Nasty Dance" is delivered a bit loosely, with some improvisational phrases that would peg this composition as more free-style than contemporary. The band gets back to playing melodies and harmonic phrases on McNeely's "Hardly Ever," before closing out the second disc with an arrangement of the title track largely unheard in Japan, and featuring great solos from Wendholt on flugelhorn and husky baritone saxophonist Gary Smulyan.

Feeling a kindred spirit with the musicians, students and fans left behind in the wake of the earthquake tragedy, the band confirmed plans for a return visit. Forever Lasting—Live In Tokyo documents the roar and swing of a dynamic sixteen-piece jazz orchestra with a history of being on the vanguard of jazz—comfortable at the forefront of the music in New York, and apparently in Tokyo, as well.

Track Listing: Low Down; You Tell Me; 61st and Rich' It; One Finger Snap; I Love You; Extra Credit; Central Park North; All of Me; Don't Ever Leave Me; Nasty Dance; Hardly Ever; Fingers; Forever Lasting.

Personnel: John Mosca: trombone; Luis Bonilla: trombone; Jason Jackson: trombone; Douglas Purviance: bass trombone; Nick Marchione: trumpet, flugelhorn; Tanya Darby: trumpet, flugelhorn; Terell Stafford: trumpet, flugelhorn; Scott Wendholt: trumpet, flugelhorn; Dick Oatts: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute; Billy Drewes: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute, clarinet; Walt Weiskopf: tenor saxophone,flute; Ralph Lalama: tenor saxophone, clarinet, flute; Gary Smulyan: baritone saxophone; Michael Weiss: piano; John Riley: drums; David Wong: bass.

Title: Forever Lasting - Live in Tokyo | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Planet Arts Records


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