All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

214

The Les Brown All-Stars: Mike's Peak

Jack Bowers By

Sign in to view read count
The Les Brown All-Stars are actually three groups—the Dave Pell Octet, Ronny Lang Saxtet and Don Fagerquist Nonet—comprised for the most part of members or alumni of Brown's popular and long-lived Band of Renown and encircling on this anthology from the mid-'50s three numbers by Zoot Sims' older brother, trombonist Ray, with string section. Pell's group, the precursor of the others, is heard on eight tracks, Fagerquist's on four, Lang's on three.

Pell, who joined Brown's band in 1948, formed his crowd-pleasing octet five years later. While the first group was made up entirely of personnel from the Band of Renown, others soon were enlisted, such as baritone saxophonist Bob Gordon, pianist Paul Smith and bassist Joe Mondragon, who are among the performers here. Pell is the common denominator in all three groups, manning the front line with Gordon and tenor giants Sims and Bill Holman in Fagerquist's nine-piece ensemble, with altos Lang and Bob Drasnin in the former's Saxtet.

The music, much of it taken from the Great American Songbook and neatly arranged by the likes of Holman, Marty Paich, Shorty Rogers and Wes Hensel, never strays far from Brown's dance-oriented philosophy (as Pell says, music that was "danceable and yet still had a jazz feel ). It's cheerful music that swings breezily along behind buoyant solos by Pell and the others. Pell, a remarkably durable musician who made his professional debut in 1941 and recorded his most recent album, Sunday Afternoons at the Lighthouse, about a year ago, plays a "happy tenor that would put a smile on almost anyone's face. If you've heard Zoot or Bob Cooper, the tenors who perhaps came closest to Pell in style and temperament, if not in sound, you'll know what I mean.

There is one sizable drawback—make that two. The numbers by Lang's Saxtet and trombonist Sims (six of the album's eighteen tracks) were no doubt transferred directly to disc from well-worn vinyl albums (and I do mean well-worn!), and the horrendous surface noise and distortion makes them unlistenable. In my view, piling garbage like that on an otherwise entertaining compact disc is inexcusable.

What we are left with is two-thirds of an album worth hearing, hardly enough to earn an endorsement, even with three luminous solos by Zoot and earnest comments by Pell, Fagerquist, Gordon, guitarist Tony Rizzi and pianist Donn Trenner. Nice music, but one shouldn't have to dig through the trash to find it.


Track Listing: Mike

Personnel: Dave Pell Octet: Dave Pell: tenor saxophone; Don Fagerquist: trumpet; Bob Gordon: baritone saxophone; Ray Sims: trombone; Tony Rizzi: guitar; Paul Smith: piano; Joe Mondragon: bass; Jack Sperling: drums. Ronny Lang Sextet: Ronny Lang, Bob Drasnin: alto saxophone; Dave Pell: tenor saxophone; Donn Trenner: piano; Buddy Clark: bass; Bill Richmond: drums. Don Fagerquist Nonet: Don Fagerquist: trumpet; Zoot Sims, Bill Holman, Dave Pell: tenor saxophone; Bob Gordon: baritone saxophone; Donn Trenner: piano; Vernon Polk: guitar; Buddy Clark: bass; Bill Richmond: drums.

Title: Mike's Peak | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Group 7 Music

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Oscar Peterson Plays CD/LP/Track Review
Oscar Peterson Plays
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: April 23, 2018
Read State Of The Baritone Volume 2 CD/LP/Track Review
State Of The Baritone Volume 2
by Mark Corroto
Published: April 23, 2018
Read Listening To Pictures (Pentimento Volume one) CD/LP/Track Review
Listening To Pictures (Pentimento Volume one)
by Chris May
Published: April 23, 2018
Read Friends & Family CD/LP/Track Review
Friends & Family
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: April 23, 2018
Read Northern Migrations CD/LP/Track Review
Northern Migrations
by Ian Patterson
Published: April 22, 2018
Read Egregore CD/LP/Track Review
Egregore
by John Eyles
Published: April 22, 2018
Read "Asteroidea" CD/LP/Track Review Asteroidea
by Troy Dostert
Published: November 9, 2017
Read "All Through the Night" CD/LP/Track Review All Through the Night
by Nicholas F. Mondello
Published: June 17, 2017
Read "Expedition" CD/LP/Track Review Expedition
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: August 4, 2017
Read "Shades Of Life" CD/LP/Track Review Shades Of Life
by James Nadal
Published: July 18, 2017
Read "Contact" CD/LP/Track Review Contact
by Geno Thackara
Published: October 31, 2017
Read "Songs of Experience: Deluxe Edition" CD/LP/Track Review Songs of Experience: Deluxe Edition
by Doug Collette
Published: February 10, 2018