Michael McGraw's Kansas City Boulevard Big Band has, since 1989, been a fixture in the area's jazz community, releasing three previous albums and earning both popular and critical acclaim. Live at Harlings Upstairs, which removes the "Kansas City from the band's name, features Southern California's renowned tenor saxophonist Pete Christlieb.
Trumpeter and bandleader McGraw decided to tape two live sessions recorded in February 2006 at the famed jazz club Harlings, in Kansas City, for this album. It contains nine big band arrangements of music from composers including Irving Berlin, Wayne Shorter, Bobby Troupe, Guy Wood and McCoy Tyner.
The music is bold and brassy, and comes out swinging with a fiery burst from the woodwinds and Christlieb's sax on trumpeter Dave Aaberg's opener, "Peeve. This is followed by an old-fashioned swinging rendition of Berlin's "Cheek To Cheek, featuring a solo joust from altoist Hal Melia.
The band slows down on the beautiful ballad "My One And Only Love, but quickly picks up the pace again on Paul McKee's arrangement of Wayne Shorter's "Black Nile, containing a steamy tenor solo from the featured guest. Christlieb's performance is stellar yet tempered on Bobby Troupe's classic ballad "The Meaning of The Blues.
Other members of the band who stand out are Jay Sollenberger playing flugelhorn on "If I Only Had a Brain, trombonist Steve Dekker on Lou Marini's "Alone, and Aaberg on the finale, "It's Not About You. Nevertheless it is tenorist Christlieb who provides the main course in serving a slew of delicious sax solos, and none as tasteful as on McCoy Tyner's "The Search for Peace.
As live performances go you will hear some clapping and the inevitable voice captured by the mike, but this actually adds to the real excitement of the recording and does not detract, in any measurable way, from the quality of the band's performance. Any way you look at it, the sound is pure big band delivered with a riveting pulse provided by Pete Christlieb and the first-rate caliber of musicians that make up this wonderful ensemble.
Track Listing: Peeve; Cheek to Cheek, My One and Only Love; Black Nile; The Meaning of The Blues; If I Only Had a Brain; Alone; The Search for Peace; It's Not About You.
Personnel: Michael McGraw: leader, trumpet; Danny O'Brein: trumpet (1, 2, 5, 7-9); Jay Sollenberger: trumpet (2-4, 6, 7, 9); Dave Aaberg: trumpet (2, 4, 6, 7, 9); Fred Mulholland: trumpet (1, 3, 4, 7, 8); Steve Molloy: trumpet (1, 3, 5, 6, 8, 9); Al Pearson: trumpet (3, 5-7, 9); Hal Melia: reeds; Phil Brenner: reeds; Pete Christlieb: reeds; Aaron Simcox: reeds; James Issac: reeds; Steve Dekker: trombone; Paul Roberts: bass trombone (3, 8); Roger Wilder: piano; Rob Whitsitt: guitar; Tim Brewer: bass; Todd Strait: drums.
Year Released: 2007
| Record Label: Boulevard
| Style: Big Band
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.