The subtitle of this trim and engaging album by the Philadelphia-based Jump City Jazz Orchestra is "A Tribute to Maynard Ferguson, and seven of its eighteen selections are from the Ferguson band's library including one of the late high-note maestro's most crowd-pleasing showcases, "Danny Boy, admirably performed here by guest trumpeter Matt Gallagher.
Also from the Ferguson songbook come Joe Zawinul's "Birdland, Bill Holman's "Dancin' Nitely, Slide Hampton's "Frame for the Blues, Mike Abene's "Knarf, Willie Maiden's ballad "Bittersweet, and the standard "It's a Pity to Say Goodnight, transcribed from Maiden's arrangement by Ed Etkins. Gallagher is featured on "Bittersweet, solos with tenor Tim Vattima and guitarist / JCJO director Mike DiFebbo on "Birdland, with Vattima, trombonist Paul Holtzman and bassist Mike Etkins on "Blues, and plays MF-like lead trumpet on "Knarf, whose torrid solos are by alto Vince Lardear and trumpeter Bob Wagner.
The trombone section shines (and Holtzman solos smartly) on "Goodnight, while the saxophones chart an unerring course on Phil Woods' "Randi. Lardear, a former student of Woods, is a soloist on that one, and shows that he clearly learned his lessons well. Sammy Nestico arranged "Broadway for the Count Basie Orchestra, and the JCJO gives it an auspicious reading, as do soloists Lardear, Holtzman, Wagner and pianist Pasquale "Pat Montenegro. The other instrumentals are Neal Hefti's "Repetition, re-orchestrated by Lardear (who sits in on alto for its catalyst, Charlie Parker), and the Louis Prima classic "Sing Sing Sing, a muscular showcase for clarinetist David Meyerson and drummer Jon Ball, with shouting trumpet courtesy of Bill Carroll.
There are seven vocals, four by Keith Spencer ("Come Back to Me, "Birth of the Blues, "Walkin' My Baby Back Home, "Something's Gotta Give ) and three by Karen Wilhelm ("Close Your Eyes, "This Can't Be Love, "Sway ). Spencer is sunny and earnest but he's no Sammy Davis Jr. (or Nat King Cole, whose "Walkin' My Baby was a big hit in the early '50s), while Wilhelm is more personable than distinctive (and scats well, albeit briefly, on "Love ).
With the emergence of the Brian Pastor, Lars Halle and City Rhythm ensembles, and now the JCJO, Philadelphia has quietly become a hotbed of big-band jazz. As Jerry Seinfeld would say, "not that there's anything wrong with that." In fact, the more the merrier. If nothing else, the JCJO proves on this agreeable concert date that it deserves to be mentioned in the same breath with its peers in the City of Brotherly Love.
Track Listing: It
Personnel: Bob Wagner: artistic director, trumpet; Dave DiValentino, Bill Carroll, Chris Bennett: trumpet; Vince Lardear: alto sax; David Myerson: alto sax, clarinet; Tim Vattima, Al Homicz: tenor sax; Scott Porreca: baritone sax; Gail Glass, Paul Holtzman, Alan Berk: trombone; Larry Priori: bass trombone; Pasquale Montenegro: piano; Mike DiFebbo: music director, guitar; Michael Etkins: bass; Jon Ball: drums; Keith Spencer, Karen Wilhelm: vocals. Special guest -- Matt Gallagher: trumpet.
Year Released: 2007
| Record Label: Jump City Jazz
| Style: Big Band