Another big band recording that was a long time coming but well worth the wait. Saxophonist Buddy Collette's twenty-member ensemble was taped in May 1990 during a concert at El Camino College in Torrance, California. The plan was to release the concert recording as an album, but as producer David Keller writes, "life intervened and the tapes lay neglected until a year ago. As it turns out, sound engineer Steve Barker's master tapes had been destroyed but Keller had kept his backups, which were deteriorating. Jonathan Marcus at Ortharion Studios, who'd been recommended by Barker, stepped in to save the tapes and the day, and the result is this chic and swinging concert recording that almost never made it to disc.
It's not often that a big band album opens with four blues pieces in a row, but it serves here only to point out the remarkable variety in the genre, as there's almost nothing beyond the name and underlying structure to link them. All were written by Collette (who's featured on flute on "Blues in Torrance, tenor on "Crystal ), as were the bustling "Andre (again showcasing Buddy's tenor), iridescent "Emaline and perky "Night at El Camino (with Buddy on clarinet). Others soloing sharply on "Andre are trumpeter Bobby Bryant and bassist Allen Jackson, two among four members of the band who, sadly, are no longer with us. The others are trombonist Thurman Green and Red Callender, known primarily as a bassist, who shows his versatility by playing a cavernous yet surprisingly melodic tuba (with Al Viola's tasteful guitar providing the counterpoint) on Duke Ellington's "In a Sentimental Mood.
Judging from his own compositions, Collette is a staunch admirer of Ellington, and four more classics associated with the Duke are on the menu, two of which"Satin Doll and Billy Strayhorn's "Take the 'A' Train"feature vocalist Cheryl Conley. Alto Fred Jackson is the leading man on "Sophisticated Lady, while almost everyone takes a turn on the evening's hastily improvised encore, Ellington's spirited "C-Jam Blues (yes, another blues). "Satin Doll is followed by Herbie Hancock's "Theme from Harlem Nights, a sumptuous ballad handsomely embellished by Collette's smooth tenor sax and Lanny Hartley's elegant piano.
Even though there's no doubt that this is a concert date (it was recorded with a single strategically placed microphone), Marcus has done a fine job of preserving the backup tapes, keeping distortion and dropouts to a minimum. "Magali fades at the end and "Sophisticated Lady picks up in the middle, but that's understandable, as what remains rests only four seconds short of a compact disc's eighty-minute capacity. As Buddy Collette no longer plays since he suffered a stroke in '98, this is an excellent opportunity to hear him and his large and talented band in one of their last recorded performances. I've heard only one more recent example, recorded in June '96 at the Lincoln Theatre in Washington, DC (Bridge 9096).
Jazz by the Bay; Blues in Torrance; Magali; Crystal; Andre; Emaline; Sophisticated Lady; In a Sentimental Mood; Take the
Buddy Collette: leader, tenor sax, clarinet, flute; Bobby Bryant, Ron King, Nolan Smith, John
Swan, Ray Brown: trumpet, flugelhorn; Fred Jackson: alto sax, clarinet, flute; Ray Reed: alto
sax, clarinet; Louis Taylor: tenor, soprano sax, clarinet; Steve Carr: tenor sax, clarinet; John
Stephens: baritone sax; Thurman Green, Garnett Brown, George Bohanon: trombone; Maurice
Spears: bass trombone; Red Callender: tuba; Al Viola: guitar; Lanny Hartley: piano; Allen
Jackson: bass; Harold Mason: drums; Cheryl Conley: vocals.