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Joe Clark Big Band featuring Jeff Hamilton: Lush

Nicholas F. Mondello By

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According to a Carl Sandburg poem, Chicago is "the city of big shoulders." There's a unique strength about Chicago that's different than New York or Los Angeles. Might it be suggested, therefore, that players emanating from the Windy City might also carry a bit more muscle, swagger and workmanlike focus? Perhaps.

With Lush, his debut as leader, Chicago trumpeter/composer/arranger Joe Clark = 27881}} and his fine band unabashedly lay all of the above attributes out front in a performance that is more strength than delicacy, more emphasis than reservation and definitely more intensity than introversion. This is a big band for, excuse the metaphorical chauvinism, the big boys. They leave it all on the bandstand.

The ensemble, comprised of some of Chicago's foremost players, covers Clark's interesting original and arranged material, expressing itself musically as spirited and in-your-face. The playing and writing across grooves from straight-ahead and bossa to balladic speaks of boldness and cohesiveness. This crew operates as a fine-tuned, swinging machine.

Clark writes in a masculine style with more ensemble and section punches than a heavyweight title fight. The heavily accented approach does wear a bit across the date. However, all things composed considered, Clark has certainly done his arranging homework as there are shades of Duke Ellington, Gil Evans and Thad Jones present. But, make no mistake: Clark is his own man—his arrangements of pianist Thelonious Monk's "Well You Needn't," and his original, "Free-Wheeling" are examples of Clark's excellent, highly stylized writing.

Lead trumpeters Brent Turney and Chuck Parrish spur the ensemble on and ensure that all punches land precisely on target. The exciting solo efforts of trumpeter Victor Garcia ("Well You Needn't," "Free Wheeling"), trombonist Tom Garling ("Red Sky"), tenor saxophonist Chris Madsen ("Lush") and pianist Ryan Cohan shine. Featured artist, drummer Jeff Hamilton, lays down solid rhythmic groundwork, keeps all swinging appropriately, and solos with flair.

Lush is a very admirable effort by a talented artist and some very fine musicians. The recording has enough "shoulders" to certainly give Clark and the band some listening "legs." Sandburg, who knew about such matters as Chicago, might agree.

Track Listing: Well You Needn't; Red Sky; Lush Life; Samba de Martelo; Free-Wheeling; Femme Fatale; Tenderly; Yesterday's Gardenias.

Personnel: Joe Clark: leader, arranger, trumpet; Bob Lark: conductor; Dan Nicholson: alto saxophone, flute; Corbin Andrick: soprano saxophone,, alto saxophone, clarinet; Chris Masden: tenor saxophone, flute; Anthony Bruno: tenor saxophone, flute; Mark Hiebert: baritone saxophone, bass clarinet; Brent Turney: co-lead trumpet, flugelhorn; Chuck Parrish: co-lead trumpet, flugelhorn; Victor Garcia: trumpet, flugelhorn; B.J. Cord: trumpet, flugelhorn; Andy Baker: lead trombone; Tom Garling: trombone; Bryant Scott: trombone; Tom Matta: bass trombone; Mike Pinto: guitar; Ryan Cohan: piano; Joe Policastro: bass; Jeff Hamilton: drums

Title: Lush | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Jazzed Media


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