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Elliot Deutsch: Make Big Band Great Again

Jack Bowers By

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Bandleader Elliot Deutsch has come up with a clever angle for his third CD, complete with obligatory red baseball cap and "Make Big Band Great Again" logo. Song titles are precocious too: "Fake News," "Repeal and Replace," "The Great Wall," sandwiched between "America the Beautiful" and an ambivalent ode to his Los Angeles home, "Pink Sunset (Over Gray Skies)." The problem arises with their length, which collectively totals roughly eighteen minutes. Given that (pardon the pun) shortcoming, the album could well be titled "Make Big Band Brief Again."

While Deutsch's stance may be delightful or distasteful, depending on one's partisan point of view, the finished product resembles a rush job, almost like "we have this great name for an album; let's write some music around it and hustle it into a studio." Not that the music itself is less than respectable; there's simply not enough of it to warrant an earnest endorsement. The album's five themes (four by Deutsch) coalesce as a suite with no breaks between them. "America the Beautiful" (1:03) is played as written, at a leisurely pace, by the full ensemble before the saxophones introduce the able-bodied, rock-leaning "Fake News" (with keen solo courtesy of trumpeter Mike Rocha). The robust, time-shifting "Repeal and Replace" showcases guitarist Will Brahm, "The Great Wall" (yet another scrappy chart) alto saxophonist Dan Kaneyuki. Trombonist Bob McChesney takes flight on "Pink Sunset," a smooth and calming counterweight to the clamor that has preceded it.

Appraising an album like this, whose heart may be in the right place but whose playing time—or, more precisely, whose lack thereof—leaves much to be desired, isn't easy. Suffice to say the music is beyond reproach, as is Deutsch's seventeen-piece band. If eighteen minutes of generally agreeable big-band blowing in the guise of a full-length CD is acceptable, you'll find it here.

Track Listing: America the Beautiful; Fake News; Repeal and Replace; The Great Wall; Pink Sunset (Over Gray Skies).

Personnel: Elliot Deutsch: leader, composer, arranger; Mitch Cooper: trumpet; Brandyn Phillips: trumpet; Chris Gray: trumpet; Mike Rocha: trumpet; Dan Kaneyuki: alto sax; Will Vargas: alto sax; Joe Santa Maria: tenor sax; Colin Kupka: tenor sax; Tim McKay: baritone sax; Bob McChesney: trombone; Erik Hughes: trombone; Sean Shackelford: trombone; Steve Hughes: bass trombone; Will Brahm: guitar; Scott Healy: piano; Brian Ward: bass; Greg Sadler: drums.

Title: Make Big Band Great Again | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Self Produced

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