Even playing “offstage” (in other words, in an out–of–the–way venue), as the announcer says in introducing the ensemble, performing at the 30th Montreux Jazz Festival must have been one of life’s momentous watermarks for Germany’s youthful STB Big Band, and they certainly give the concert everything they have. Like most bands I’ve heard from that country, amateur or professional, they play well as a unit, but STB has no strong solo voices, and the eight vocals — four by Pedret, three by Mayer, a duet on “All of Me” — are on the whole flat and unimpressive. “It Had to Be You” was not written to accommodate a heavy German accent (Pedret fares better in Spanish on “Sola Naci” and “24000 Baci”), while on “All of Me” he demonstrates that scat–singing is an art form that shouldn’t be undertaken by novices. Among the highlights are a respectable treatment of “Gonna Fly Now” (the theme from Rocky ), Bob Mintzer’s lively mambo “Frankie’s Tune” (nice solo by pianist Gaiswinkler), Paul Ferguson’s Basie–like “Stop Counting” and Dizzy’s fiery “Manteca” (which gives the ensemble a chance to flex its collective muscles and baritone saxophonist Mahlzeit an admirable solo). Decently high marks for the ensemble, but no more than passable for soloists or singers. In other words, a mixed bag — but I’m sure no less exciting for the band whose members can now say proudly, “Hey, everyone, we played the Montreux Jazz Festival.” Good for them!
Track listing: Introduction: Hay Burner; Hard Rock Café; It Had to Be You; Sola Naci; 24000 Baci; Stop Counting; A Night in Tunisia; Gonna Fly Now; Mustang Sally; The Girl from Ipanema; Frankie’s Tune; Almaz; Almost Like Being in Love; Manteca; All of Me (66:20).
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