It’s hard to determine the exact size of tenor saxophonist Chuck Clark’s Little Big Band, as the booklet contains two lists, one for “musicians” (ten names, which would make it a tentet), another for “additional musicians” (five names but with no information about the number of selections on which any or all of them play). Clark, who composed six of the nine numbers and solos on three (Miles Davis / Bill Evans’ “Blue in Green,” his own “Footprints in the Sand,” Jerome Kern’s “Yesterdays”), is listed among the “additional musicians,” which may or may not mean he sits in only on those tracks on which he solos. Others in that class are tenor Gabriel Coburger, alto / soprano / flutist Jerry Dodgion, trombonist Bruce Eidem and bass trombonist Mike Christiansen. Dodgion (alto) solos on “Blue in Green,” Christiansen on “Blues for Hale–Bopp,” Eidem on “Sugar Blues.” Coburger doesn’t solo. Based on what I can hear, the Little Big Band sounds more like a tentet than a full–sized (thirteen–piece or larger) ensemble. Now that we’ve sorted that out, a few words about the music. It’s pleasant, well–arranged post–bop fare with handsome voicings, trim ensemble work, sturdy rhythm (drummer Ron Vincent is first–rate) and generally engaging if less than groundbreaking solos. “Talking to My Socks” opens quietly with Diana Herold’s unaccompanied vibraphone soon joined by the ensemble for a breezy swinger on which bass trombonist Wayne Coniglio is featured. “Angel Eyes,” which follows, is lush and romantic with solos to match by alto Matt Hong and bassist Will Woodard. “Blue in Green” embodies some of the ensemble’s loveliest passages, while “Blues for Hale–Bopp” (which guitarist Khabu Doug Young opens in mid–note) is enlivened by Christiansen’s intrepid bass trombone solo. Allmond’s wah–wah trumpet introduces the capricious “Sugar Blues,” on which Eidem and alto Bruce Williamson solo, after which Clark and Young take their turn on the balladic “Footprints in the Sand.” Clark smartly varies the tempo from slow to up and back again on “Yesterdays,” on which he and bassist Woodard solo. Next up is “Slap,” a playful romp with incisive comments by Allmond, Vincent, trombonist Tim Sessions and tenor Peter Brainin, after which the ensemble wraps things up with Clark’s bluesy “Roadside Attractions” (solos by Woodard and Williamson, “special effects” by Vincent and perhaps others). Clark’s band may be small but it speaks with a rather large voice, one that is worth hearing and appreciating.
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