2

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

Jack Bowers By

Sign in to view read count
The Great American Music Ensemble: It's All in the Game 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.

Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Jazzed Media


comments powered by Disqus

Shop

More Articles

Read The Big Wig CD/LP/Track Review The Big Wig
by Ian Patterson
Published: May 24, 2017
Read The Dreamer Is the Dream CD/LP/Track Review The Dreamer Is the Dream
by Mark Sullivan
Published: May 24, 2017
Read Bill Evans – Another Time: The Hilversum Concert CD/LP/Track Review Bill Evans – Another Time: The Hilversum Concert
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: May 24, 2017
Read The Failure of Words CD/LP/Track Review The Failure of Words
by Glenn Astarita
Published: May 24, 2017
Read Groove Dreams CD/LP/Track Review Groove Dreams
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: May 23, 2017
Read Kami Fusen CD/LP/Track Review Kami Fusen
by Glenn Astarita
Published: May 23, 2017
Read "El Viaje" CD/LP/Track Review El Viaje
by James Nadal
Published: September 14, 2016
Read "Into A Myth" CD/LP/Track Review Into A Myth
by Roger Farbey
Published: May 19, 2017
Read "Luisa" CD/LP/Track Review Luisa
by Matt Marshall
Published: April 14, 2017
Read "From Here to There" CD/LP/Track Review From Here to There
by Mark F. Turner
Published: September 11, 2016
Read "Cuong Vu Trio Meets Pat Metheny" CD/LP/Track Review Cuong Vu Trio Meets Pat Metheny
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: June 4, 2016
Read "Sign of the Crow" CD/LP/Track Review Sign of the Crow
by Geno Thackara
Published: July 30, 2016

Why wait?

Support All About Jazz and we'll deliver exclusive content, hide ads, hide slide-outs, and provide read access to our future articles.

Buy it!