About four years before this splendid album was recorded, the King William Jazz Collective performed its first gig in San Antonio's historic King William district. While that alone could be impetus enough on which to hang a name, there's more, as the band's baritone saxophonist / music director happens to be King, William (at least in the telephone directory). He's better known as Bill King
, and the eleven-piece ensemble he leads has since grown to be quite a snug and impressive group.
The Collective is comprised of two trumpets, two trombones, three reeds and a four-piece rhythm section, with vocalist Joan Carroll
added on four of the album's dozen selections. In a band this size, everyone has to be an able soloist as well as a team player, and there are perceptive statements by all hands save bassist Bob Storck and drummer Darren Kuper
who are content to stoke the fire while keeping impeccable time. Carroll, meanwhile, sings in a clear, "happy" voice that is pretty much free of pretense on "What a Little Moonlight Can Do," the Nat Cole hit "Too Young to Go Steady," "The Night Has a Thousand Eyes" (a personal favorite) and "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square." Bill King is featured on "Over the Rainbow," pianist David Lopez
on Sam Rivers
' lyrical "Beatrice," trumpeter Logan Keese
on Rodgers and Hart's ballad "You Are Too Beautiful." Each one acquits himself admirably.
Besides the songs already noted, highlights include the buoyant opener, "Billy Boy" (solos by King, Keese and guitarist Trevor LaBonte), Sonny Rollins
' bold, boppish "Tenor Madness" (Morgan King, tenor; Jaime Paker, trombone), John Coltrane
's seductive "Syeeda's Song Flute" (LaBonte, Morgan King, alto Cody Brown
), Ronnell Bright
's happy-go-lucky "Sweet Pumpkin" (Keese, trombonist Gil Garza) and Gary Bartz
' dynamic "Eastern Blues" (Brown, LaBonte, Bill King). The Collective strives earnestly to give each one its due. In sum, this is more than an hour of charming straight-ahead jazz by a world-class "little big band." Long live the King!
Billy Boy; Syeeda’s Song Flute; Sweet Pumpkin; What a Little Moonlight Can Do; Too Young to Go Steady; Over the Rainbow; Beatrice; Tenor Madness; The Night Has a Thousand Eyes; You Are Too Beautiful; Eastern Blues; A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square.
Bill King: music director, baritone sax, flute, bass clarinet; Jason Jones: trumpet; Logan Keese: trumpet; Cody Brown: alto, soprano sax; Morgan King: tenor sax, flute, clarinet; Gil Garza: trombone; Jaime Parker: trombone; Trevor LaBonte: guitar; David Lopez: piano; Bob Storck: bass; Darren Kuper: drums; Joan Carroll: vocals.