Have you ever been to a concert where the band was blowin’ up a storm but the cavernously richocheting acoustics were enough to drive you crazy? If so, you’ll readily identify with this album, a marvelous collaboration between Rob McConnell and the Toulouse–based Big Band Brass that cooks from the word go but is repeatedly sabotaged (a suitably French word) by its disconcerting (no pun intended) concert–hall ambiance. As a longtime admirer of McConnell’s, and with his peerless Canadian ensemble, the Boss Brass, no longer operative — at least for the present, if not permanently — I looked forward eagerly to hearing his album with the BBB, recorded a year ago this month, a copy of which I obtained courtesy of the band’s splendid lead trumpeter, Tony Amouroux. Tony enclosed a note in which he explained that the BBB is but one year old and apologized in advance for any weaknesses. He needn’t have. The ensemble itself is consistently impressive, as are McConnell’s stylish charts and his always eloquent locutions on valve trombone. But either Odyssud Blagnac, where (I presume) the recording was made, is an acoustic swamp or the engineers in charge were, shall we say, less than adroit (to use another apposite French description). The resulting sabotage, even though inadvertent, is no less harmful than any deliberate assault. That’s a pity, as the Big Band Brass definitely rises to the occasion, further enhancing McConnell’s already lavish charts while unleashing a phalanx of admirable soloists who, unlike the ensemble as a whole, are in most cases reasonably well–recorded. Tenor Laurent Audinos is the most frequently heard (on five numbers), with other persuasive statements interposed by trumpeters Jacques Adamo and Dominique Rieux, pianist Philippe Léogé, soprano David Pautric and guitarist Pierre Téodori. The generously timed disc accommodates half a dozen of Rob’s compositions and one each by Roger Kellaway (“Love of My Life”) and Boss Brass alumni Don Thompson (“Days Gone By”) and Rick Wilkins (“Who Asked,” his snappy answer to the age–old question “What Is This Thing Called Love”). McConnell solos on four selections (“T.O. Two,” “Hey!,” “4 B.C.” and “Even Canadians Get the Blues”), showing that any lip problems alluded to in recent years have vanished and he remains in his mid–60s one of the undisputed masters of the digitally operated ’bone. It’s difficult to wholly endorse an album like this, in which nearly aspect is first–class but whose lone exception — less than adequate sound — can be quite unsettling to some ears. Having listened several times, I must say that I’ve been able to brush aside the sonic drawbacks and focus on the album’s more desirable qualities, which are readily uncovered and as easily appreciated. With that caveat, a conclusive thumbs–up for the BBB and “boss,” an able–bodied team that never fails to deliver the goods.
Contact:Tony Amouroux, 27 rue de la Colline, 11300 Limoux, France. E-mail amourouxtony@Wanadoo.fr
Track Listing: Who Asked; T.O. Two; The Waltz I Blew for You; Days Gone By; Hey!; Winter in Winnipeg; Love of My Life; 4 B.C.; Even Canadians Get the Blues (71:59).
Personnel: Rob McConnell, valve trombone, composer, arranger; Tony Amouroux, Dominique Rieux, Jacques Adamo, Eric Duroc, Michel Lassalle, trumpet; Michel Chalot, Pierre Condon, Bruno Hervat, trombone; Patrice Caussidery, bass trombone; Christophe Mouly, alto sax, flute; Laurent Velluz, alto sax, clarinet; Laurent Audinos, tenor, soprano sax; David Pautric, tenor, soprano, sax, flute; David Cayrou, baritone sax, clarinet, bass clarinet; Guillaume Amiel, Fabien Mouly, French horn; Philippe L