Drummer Louie Bellson and trumpeter/flugelhornist Clark Terry first worked together in the Duke Ellington Orchestra in the '50s and the Duke or, as Terry always refers to him, "The Maestro," remains central to both players' jazz conception. This is more a Bellson big band project than a true collaboration, as Terry only appears on seven of the thirteen tracks and Bellson composed or co-wrote all thirteen. Carrying on in a decidedly Ellington vein, the first four tracks comprise "The Chicago Suite." The byplay between trumpet (Stepko Gut) and band on the suite's "City of Seasons," as well as the contrasting low, sashaying horns and high skipping ones on "The Blues Singer," reflects Ellington orchestral strategies, although elsewhere on the CD the band leans more toward New Testament Count Basie.
Bellson remains, in his mid-80s, a formidable big band drummer who knows not only how to drive a band but also how to accent arrangements with crisp fills and short drum breaks that never fail to add excitement. On "State Street Swing" from the suite and the CD closer, "Well Alright Then," he propels the band as well as any big band drummer out there today. "Two Guys and A Gal" is another entertaining Bellson showcase for drum solos, here with Kenny Washington and Sylvia Cuenca adding their trap sets to the mix. Terry's appearances begin tentatively with two yeoman-like open solos, but he hits his stride on three tracks featuring his Harmon-muted horn. "Terry's Mood" captures his whimsy and wit in a brightly syncopated theme and puckish out chorus solo, while "Back to the Basics (Old)" contrasts his muted horn with flutes. On the swaggering "Now (The Young)" he adds hints of plunger to a solo where the band drops out for just walking bass and the barest ticking drumstick on cymbal.
Chicago Suite Four Part Movement:(State Street Swing; City of Season; The Blues Singer; Lake Shore Drive); Davenport Blues; Two Guys And A Gal; Piacere; Give Me The Good Time; Ballade; Terry's Mood; Back To The Basics (Old); Now (The Young); Well Alright Then.
Louie Bellson: composer, drums; Clark Terry: trumpet, flugelhorn; Albert Alva: conductor, alto saxophone, flute; Stantawn Kendrick: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute; Steve Guerra: tenor saxophone; Whitney Staten: tenor saxophone; Adam Schroeder: baritone saxophone; Stafford Hunter: trombone; Andrae Murchison: trombone; Cameron MacManus: trombone; Jack Jeffers: bass trombone; Frank Greene: trumpet, flugelhorn; Tony Lujan: trumpet, flugelhorn; Stjepko Gut: trumpet, flugelhorn; Greg Glassman: trumpet, flugelhorn; Helen Sung: piano; Marcus McLaurine: bass; Sylvia Cuenca: drums (6); Kenny Washington: drums (6).