This is the second superlative recording we’ve heard in the last two months by Norway’s world–class Sandvika Storband (the other, Greenhouse—Live at Smuget,
was reviewed in May). This time around, the band has some help (not that it needs any) from three acclaimed guest artists, two from the UK (trombonist/composer Mark Nightingale, vocalist Claire Martin), the other from the US (tenor saxophonist/composer Don Menza). Nightingale unleashes his awesome Carl Fontana–like chops on his mid–tempo charmer, “In the Clear,” his inventive arrangement of the Gershwins’ “S’Wonderful” and Maria Schneider’s frisky treatment of Henry Mancini’s “Days of Wine and Roses.” Martin, whose press notices have been consistently glowing, is heard on Lennon/McCartney’s “Come Together,” Matt Dennis/Earl Brent’s “Angel Eyes” and Lerner and Loewe’s “On the Street Where You Live” (and sounds far more engaged and at ease on the last two, with Nightingale’s trombone dashing arm–in–arm with her down “The Street”.) Having read several of those reviews of Martin’s work, I frankly expected more from her, but others may disagree. In fairness, Nightingale’s Nelson Riddle–inspired version of “The Street Where You Live” doesn’t give her much room to maneuver, and she’s suitably expressive on Menza’s more sedate arrangement of “Angel Eyes.” Menza wrote the seductive bossa “Faviana,” the swaying shuffle “Broadbottom” and the showy, fast–paced “Lining Up!” and solos on the latter as well as on “Angel Eyes” and Orjan Fahlstrom’s hard–edged flag–waver, “If Right Was Wrong.” Lest one should forget what a wonderful improviser Menza can be, here are three emphatic reminders. Sandvika’s cadre of impressive soloists has its chance to shine on “Faviana” (Karl Stromme, trumpet; Birger Carlsen, trombone), “Lining Up!” (Torstein Ellingsen, drums; Frode Kjekstad, guitar); “Wine and Roses” (Marius Haltli, trumpet); “Broadbottom” (Biorn Barlo, tenor sax) and “In the Clear” (Barlo, Haltli). The ensemble is typically sharp and sure–footed, the rhythm section nimble and supportive. Another sparkling session from Sandvika.
Track listing: S’Wonderful; Come Together; Faviana; Lining Up!; Days of Wine and Roses; Angel Eyes; Broadbottom; In the Clear; If Right Was Wrong; On the Street Where You Live (62:52).