What a great title. The Spokane (WA) Jazz Orchestra, now in its thirtieth year, has at last seen fit to record its first album, and, yes, It's About Time.
In fact, long past timebut better late than never. It's surely about time the rest of the country was introduced to a band that has staunchly served the Spokane area since it was formed back in 1975, performing several well-received concerts each year, a number of them under the baton of its principal guest conductor, Gunther Schuller.
The SJO is basically a repertory band, playing in styles ranging from Dixie and swing to contemporary, and canvassing music from Ellington and Lunceford to Basie, Herman, Kenton and beyond. There's one Ellington tune, "Isfahan," on the album, and I had to check the composer credits to make sure there wasn't a second, as pianist Brent Edstrom's "Dark and Stormy Night" has so many Ellington touches that one might reasonably assume the Duke had written it as well. The SJO has chosen its agenda with care, bookending the program with Tom Molter's marvelous arrangements of "Sugar" and "My Shining Hour." In between are splendid originals by Ryan Keberle ("Slants") and Greg Yasinistsky ("Inside Passage'), Monk's "I Mean You," Clifford Brown's "Joy Spring" and four standards"East of the Sun," "You Don't Know What Love Is," "Makin' Whoopee," "Almost Like Being in Love"the last two featuring vocalist Charlotte Carruthers.
Music director/trumpeter Dan Keberle, who arranged "I Mean You," "You Don't Know What Love Is" and "East of the Sun," is handsomely showcased on "Joy Spring," as are Edstrom on "I Mean You," alto Chris Moyer on "Isfahan" and trombonist Dave Stultz on "You Don't Know What Love Is," with other heavy-duty solos by tenors Yaskinitsky and Greg Edighoffer, trombonist Molter, trumpeter Andy Plamondon and guitarist Mike Frederick. Yaskinitsky's romping "Inside Passage," which reads like a page from the Herman or Buddy Rich book, is one among many highlights.
Truth be told, each of the charts is first-class, as is the band, from lead trumpeters Terry Lack and Robert McCurdy to the tasteful and hard-working drummer whose name was inadvertently omitted from the album's personnel list. Nice work, whoever you are. Even though the introduction was long overdue, getting acquainted with the SJO has been a genuine pleasure; It's About Time you shared the exhilarating experience.