Remember those electrifying big bands of 40 or so years ago presided over by peerless high–note trumpeter Maynard Ferguson? Thought you’d heard the last of them? Wrong! The remarkable MF sound lives on, thanks to another outstanding trumpeter, Dan McMillion, and his brawny Florida–based Jazz Orchestra, who’ve definitely got the “Maynard Ferguson spirit” on this, their third album (and first for Sea Breeze Records). McMillion makes no secret of the fact that Maynard is his trumpet–playing hero and role model and has patterned his orchestra after Ferguson’s, whose roaring brass section was in turn inspired by his years as a sideman with the Stan Kenton Orchestra. “Got the Spirit” was written by ex–MF trombonist Slide Hampton, “Knarf” by another one–time Ferguson stalwart, pianist Mike Abene, and McMillion reprises a pair of Maynard’s spectacular showcases, Bobby Troup’s “The Meaning of the Blues” (on which he plays flugel) and Bob Haggart / Johnny Burke’s “What’s New.” McMillion solos on every number except Herb Ellis’s “Country Boy,” and (again emulating MF) plays superbone on “The Lamp Is Low.” The sparkling opener, “Groove,” was composed and arranged by Oliver Nelson, the funky “Closing Time at the Engine Room Bar” by Butch Evans. Bill Matthieu arranged “The Meaning of the Blues,” Dave Wolpe “What’s New,” Bill Holman “A Country Boy,” Ernie Wilkins “The Lamp Is Low.” The other well–crafted charts are by Wolpe (“Just Friends”), John Fedchock (“It Don’t Mean a Thing”) and Sammy Nestico (Benny Golson’s “I Remember Clifford”). The band skips easily through each of them, sounding, as it should, much like a latter–day incarnation of those MF–led mammoths that roamed the earth so many years ago. The enterprising soloists, besides McMillion, are pianist Richard Drexler, tenor Kim Bock and trombonist Keith Oshiro (“Just Friends”); tenor Jeff Jordan (“Got the Spirit,” “It Don’t Mean a Thing,” “Closing Time,” “Blues,” “Country Boy”); baritone Valerie Gillespie (“Knarf”); Oshiro and Drexler (“It Don’t Mean a Thing”); bassist Joe Porter (“Closing Time”); Drexler again (“The Lamp Is Low“) and tombonist Roger Delillo (“Closing Time,” “Country Boy”). Got the Spirit is much more than a nostaligic stroll down memory lane, but if you’re a Maynard Ferguson enthusiast, you’ll surely be pleased by Dan McMillion’s “MF Nouveau.”
Track Listing: Groove; Just Friends; Got the Spirit; Knarf; It Don
Personnel: Dan McMillion, leader, trumpet, flugelhorn, superbone; Chad Shoopman, John Lombard, Andy Reese, Cameron Perett, trumpet; Roger Delillo, Keith Oshiro, Chris Price, Jim Hall, trombone; Valerie Gillespie, Jeff Hall, alto sax; Jeff Jordan, Kim Bock, tenor sax; Butch Evans, baritone sax; Richard Drexler, piano; Joe Porter, bass; Chuck Parr, drums, Latin percussion.