The Big Crazy Energy New York Band isn't a name to be taken lightly. This hard-charging group of musicians fuses big band depth to a selection of pop and jazz songs on Inspiration.
The band is led by composer/producer/trombonist Jens Wendelboe, who toured with Blood, Sweat and Tears, was musical director for Donna Summer and scored music for the television series The Guiding Light. Several luminaries comprise this diverse ensemble, including Michael Migliore (Maynard Ferguson), Joey Berkley (Funkasaurus Rex) and Bill Heller (The Rippingtons).
The energy jumps right out with the crazy take on Billy Cobham's "Pleasant Pheasant." The tenors, Mark Fineberg and Ken Gioffre, trade licks during a sizzling middle pass, with David Anderson delivers a funky bass line throughout. Heller's synth solo is supported by the horns, as drummer Lee Finkelstein gets to show off, pounding some high-speed tom rolls.
Vocalist Deb Lyons leads on the balladic "Seasons Wander." Though softer and slower than the other tracks, the blend of Lyons' earthy alto and Heller's acoustic piano, both complemented by the horns, maintain interest throughout.
"Boone Dog Café" is one of four original songs in the set, with trumpeter Steven Jankowski and alto saxophonist Tom Timko joining Wendelboe for the three-part lead. Bob Millikan's trumpet solo is answered by George Flynn on the tuba, while Heller's synth solo is accompanied only by bass and drums until the horns return to set up a reiteration of the melody.
An upbeat take on The Beatles' "A Day in the Life" closes the set. Some of the horns are muted, and Timko switches to flute. The different sections mix and match superbly during verse and chorus. Trumpeter Chris Rogers and altoist Migliore deliver spirited expressions, with Migliore working in a hint of the melody. Everyone's involved in the chaotic buildup to the song's middle break, the saxophones leading the sassy, playful interlude, with answers from the muted trumpets and trombones before the song reverts to mellower self.
Co-produced by Jankowski, Inspirations is an eclectic mix of old and new, each song played with a vigor that exemplifies the band's name.
Pleasant Pheasant; Ack Värmland du Schöna (Dear Old Stockholm); Seasons Wonder; Boon Dog Café; Out of the Night; Ear Trumpet; I Know, Later; Gloria's Step & More; A Day in the Life.
Deb Lyons: vocal; Tom Timko: first alto sax, soprano sax, flute, clarinet, bass clarinet and baritone sax; Michael Migliore: second alto sax; Mark Fineberg: first tenor sax; Joey Berkley: second tenor sax; Ken Gioffre: tenor sax (1); Sam Bortka: baritone sax, bass clarinet (8); Bob Millikan: trumpet 1; Steve Jankowski: trumpet 2; Rick Savage: trumpet 3; Chris Rogers: trumpet 4; Dan Levine: trombone 1 and euphonium; Charley Gordon: trombone 2; Jens Wendelboe: trombone 3; George Flynn: bass trombone, tuba; David Anderson: electric bass; Lee Finkelstein: drums; Bill Heller: piano and synthesizer.
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