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Having already released two studio albums, the Mace Francis Orchestra from faraway Perth, Australia, goes live this time with a sturdy concert session taped in November, 2006 at Bennetts Lane Jazz Club in Melbourne during a tour of the country's eastern provinces. Even though less than three years old, the MFO shows considerable promise, as Francis has drawn to his side a number of West Australia's most accomplished musicians.
While the ensemble isn't especially well-served by the erratic sound quality on this club date, the charts are by and large admirable and the musicianship often breaks through the over-all haze to make the session worth hearing. Francis wrote four of the nine tunes and saxophonist Dan Thorne two, reinforcing originals by Thad Jones ("Just Blues ), Ed Partyka ("A Long Winter ) and Charles Mingus ("Moanin' ). There's one encore from the orchestra's second album, 2006's Introducing the Mace Francis Orchestra, the leader's clever salute to Horace Silver's "The Preacher, which he calls "The Preacher Is Broken.
Guitarist Johanne Druitt is showcased on the first of Thorne's compositions, "What About Jed?, baritone Mark Sprogowski on the second, "That Darn Dream. Trombonists are also in the forefront, with Tilman Robinson featured on "Winter, Catherine Noblet on Francis's "Lemon Water and "Mache Mambo. The leader's other composition, "Where's His Sepcin?, closely resembles Cole Porter's "Anything Goes. Alto saxophonist Thorne is another respectable soloist, as are trumpeter Ricki Malet, tenor Alistair McEvoy, soprano Ben Collins and drummer Greg Brenton.
Brenton is a standout in more ways than one, as the balance leans heavily toward him throughout the session. As in many concerts, brass and reeds are also loud and clear, and it is the soloists who wane by comparison. Francis himself describes the aftermath as "a raw recording that really grabs the energy and intensity of the band in full flight. Raw it is, and spirited too. If you admire the latter trait and can turn a deaf ear to the former, you may derive considerable pleasure from MFO Live.
Track Listing: Just Blues; What About Jed?; A Long Winter; Lemon Water; The Preacher Is Broken; That Darn Dream; Whereís His Sepcin?; Moaniní; Mache Mambo.