All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...


The Great American Music Ensemble: It's All in the Game

Jack Bowers By

Sign in to view read count
While those of a certain age may reasonably presume that It's All in the Game refers to a hit song from 1958 by Tommy Edwards ("Many a tear has to fall, but it's all in the game . . ."), the "game" in this case is actually an acronym for conductor / arranger Doug Richards' Great American Music Ensemble, or GAME, formed in the mid-80s when Richards was director of Jazz Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. All in the Game, the first and (to date) only album by Richards' splendid ensemble, was recorded in 2001 and languished thereafter on a shelf for fifteen years until Graham Carter, a Woody Herman enthusiast who knows a good band when he hears one, agreed to release it on his Jazzed Media label.

Even though the album consists almost entirely of standards from the Great American Songbook, Richards' whimsical charts put a fresh new spin on every number, half a dozen of which are pleasingly sung by Rene Marie, a fellow Virginian who was then in the early stages of her late-blossoming career. The celebrated trumpeter Jon Faddis is showcased on Hoagy Carmichael's "Stardust," the late violinist Joe Kennedy Jr. on "When It's Sleepy Time Down South," and the dynamic duo sparkles again on Joe (King) Oliver's mournful "West End Blues." Richards begins by dragging the Joe Garland warhorse, "In the Mood," kicking and screaming into the twenty-first century via clever instrumentation, melodic variations and shifting tempos, and does the same with Al Dubin / Harry Warren's "September in the Rain," Vernon Duke / Yip Harburg's "April in Paris" (featuring trumpeter John D'Earth) and Ray Noble's "Cherokee," among other evergreens. The Gershwins' lovely "Embraceable You" (Skip Gailes, soprano) is all but enshrouded within Richards' ornamental framework but is no less engaging because of it, while the closing "Bird's Blues" uses four altos (Gailes, Marty Nau, John Winn, Rob Holmes) to salute Charlie Parker via four of his lively bop themes ("Now's the Time," "Au Privave," "Blues for Alice," "Billie's Bounce").

For comparison's sake, Richards seems to have been inspired by the adventurous Sauter-Finegan Orchestra from the mid-50s. The debt is perceptible everywhere, and especially so on the songs already mentioned. Whatever the leader's purpose, the ensemble grasps it firmly and imbues it with irrepressible brilliance and charm. A consistently fascinating Game whose new-coined rules belie its conservative base.

Track Listing: In the Mood; Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man of Mine; Clap Yo’ Hands; Stardust; When It’s Sleepy Time Down South; West End Blues; I’ve Got the World on a String; I Am Loved; September in the Rain; April in Paris; Cherokee; They All Laughed; Ain’t Misbehavin’; Embraceable You; Bird Blues.

Personnel: Doug Richards: director, arranger; Roy Muth: trumpet, flugelhorn; Bob Ransom: trumpet, flugelhorn; John D’Earth: trumpet, flugelhorn; Rob DeDominick: trumpet, flugelhorn; Marty Nau: alto, soprano sax, clarinet; Jim Nesbit: alto, soprano, baritone sax, basset horn, bass clarinet, bassoon, contra bassoon; Skip Gailes: tenor, soprano, alto sax, flute, bass clarinet; John Winn: tenor, soprano, alto sax, clarinet, bass clarinet; Rob Holmes: baritone, alto, soprano sax, clarinet, bass clarinet; Jim McFalls: trombone; Dean Englert: trombone, euphonium; Lee Gause: bass trombone; Weldon Hill: acoustic, electric piano; Victor Dvoskin: bass; Howard Curtis: drums, percussion. Special guests – Rene Marie: vocals; Jon Faddis: trumpet; Joe Kennedy Jr.: violin.

Title: It's All in the Game | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Jazzed Media


comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read This City CD/LP/Track Review
This City
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: March 24, 2018
Read More Songs About Error And Shame CD/LP/Track Review
More Songs About Error And Shame
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: March 24, 2018
Read West Coast Trio CD/LP/Track Review
West Coast Trio
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: March 24, 2018
Read Sun Embassy CD/LP/Track Review
Sun Embassy
by Mark Corroto
Published: March 24, 2018
Read The Pocket Philharmonic Orchestra, Peter Stangel – Beethoven Revisited Symphonies 1-9 CD/LP/Track Review
The Pocket Philharmonic Orchestra, Peter Stangel –...
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: March 24, 2018
Read Lala Belu CD/LP/Track Review
Lala Belu
by Chris May
Published: March 23, 2018
Read "A Meeting Of Spirits" CD/LP/Track Review A Meeting Of Spirits
by Roger Farbey
Published: September 18, 2017
Read "Magic Circle" CD/LP/Track Review Magic Circle
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: December 12, 2017
Read "Swinging In The Holidays" CD/LP/Track Review Swinging In The Holidays
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 11, 2017
Read "Yequm" CD/LP/Track Review Yequm
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: October 24, 2017
Read "Poetry from the Future" CD/LP/Track Review Poetry from the Future
by Glenn Astarita
Published: September 5, 2017
Read "Trickster" CD/LP/Track Review Trickster
by Glenn Astarita
Published: March 24, 2017