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For one who’s used to hearing trumpeter George Graham lead the cavalry through one breathtaking big–band chart after another, How About Me? takes some getting used to — but once one has surmounted that barrier he (or she) can take pleasure in an abundance of lovely music, wonderfully played. In using a “string orchestra” (to be more precise, a largely electronic equivalent of same presided over by ace arranger Tom Kubis), Graham is following in the footsteps of a number of other outstanding trumpeters including Clifford Brown, Chet Baker, Miles Davis, Art Farmer, Joe Newman, Freddie Hubbard and Wynton Marsalis. And we shouldn’t overlook Bobby Hackett whose mellow albums with the Jackie Gleason Orchestra are classics of their kind. Like Hackett, Graham plays only flugel on How About Me?, the second album for his Pippo Avenue label. The question is, should Graham’s name be mentioned in the same breath as those trumpet masters noted above? Indeed it should — even though uncelebrated by the public, he’s well–known and respected among fellow musicians and others in the business as one of the most accomplished, versatile and sought–after trumpeters on the scene. One of the guest artists on this album is pianist Bob Florence, in whose band Graham has played lead trumpet for some two decades. Kubis is also repaying a debt of gratitude, having used Graham as section leader / soloist on half a dozen albums. Kubis solos on eight tracks, Florence on three, trombonist Bob McChesney on “Here’s That Rainy Day,” English horn player Cathy Del Russo on “Willow Weep for Me,” violinist Calabria McChesney on “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face.” As a glance at the song titles affirms, these are ballads, most of them well–known, with the accent on beauty, a beauty that begins with Graham’s gorgeous tone and includes Kubis’s gently flowing charts. “I’ve been a ballad–lover all my life,” says Graham. “I’m truly a tune romantic.” And romantic is the word for his interpretation of such radiant melodies as “What’s New?,” “But Beautiful,” “Day by Day,” “You Go to My Head,” “Star Eyes” and the others on this heartwarming album. Instead of crafting a summary we’ll let Kubis do it for us: “A lot [of what George plays] comes from the heart, and he brings his life experiences to it — a beautiful sound unique to him, and he has his own way of playing. His own magic just keeps popping up.” Graham closes the album with a hauntingly seductive version of “That’s All.” It’s a selection we hope is no more than symbolic, as that’s definitely not all we would choose to hear from Graham’s magnificent horn.
Contact:Pippo Avenue Records, P.O. Box 370, Brentwood, CA 94513; George Graham, P.O. Box 38, Sunland, CA 91041–0038. Phone 818–353–1817; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Track Listing: How About Me?; What
Personnel: George Graham, flugelhorn, with Tom Kubis, soprano, alto sax and His Electric Orchestra. Special guests Bob Florence, piano; Bob McChesney, trombone; Trey Henry, bass; Ray Brinker, drums; Calabria McChesney, violin; Catherine del Russo, English horn.