The cover photo on this album depicts leader Gary Wofsey, eyes closed and obviously concentrating hard, trumpet in his right hand, flugelhorn in the left, playing them simultaneously, which he does on three of its ten selections. Whether something so out of the ordinary should be looked upon as an aesthetic concept or merely a gimmick depends, we suppose, on the outcome; in other words, on how well the enterprise is carried out. Using that definition as a yardstick, one can affirm without equivocation that Wofsey is a serious artist in the likeness of, say, the late Roland Kirk (who often played three instruments at once), as he is a virtuosic performer with one horn or two in his hands. Wofsey’s Connecticut–based orchestra, showcased on eight of ten tracks including four that were recorded in concert, is almost as masterful as its leader, showing clearly that musical talent knows no borders and is by no means confined to the precincts of our larger metropolitan areas. Wofsey’s proficiency stretches beyond playing to composing and arranging; he wrote three handsome songs for the orchestra, another (“Sounds of Joy”) for quartet, and arranged everything except Jill Allen’s “Let’s Tawk” (also for quartet). Wofsey’s well–designed charts, which include scintillating adaptations of Claude Debussy’s “La Mer” and Igor Stravinsky’s “Firebird,” are consistently impressive, starting with a free–booting version of George and Ira Gershwin’s “They Can’t Take That Away from Me” whose melody he introduces on trumpet and flugel (synchronously, of course) before taking an awesome two–horn solo that precedes emphatic statements by baritone Chris Karlic, trumpeter John Hines, alto Kristy Norter, trombonist Marshall Gilkes and bassist Allen. “They Can’t Take That Away” was performed for an audience, as were “Firebird,” Allen’s perky “Sunlit Samba” and Jon Anderson / Chris Squire’s “Perpetual Change.” Wofsey solos on trumpet and / or flugel on every number save his easygoing “Ohisama,” on which he moves to the richer–toned mellophonium. Wofsey’s high–note trumpet work (and that of section leader Tomer Levy) is frequently dazzling, especially on “Hanako Cocoa,” “Perpetual Change” and “Firebird,” while his ensemble, persistently invigorated by its uncompromising rhythm section (Allen, pianist Pete Levin, drummer Rick Donato), is equally forceful throughout. In spite of Wofsey’s unorthodox talent, he has contrived no stunt but put together a remarkably solid and colorful big–band album that’s a pleasure to hear from start to finish.
The first record I bought was Miles Smiles. Having been a drummer since age two, hearing a young Tony Williams opened up so many possibilities for a 14 year old church drummer. My life changed that day and I've never looked back!