The superb Rodger Fox Big Band has twice been honored with New Zealand's award for Best Jazz Recording of the Year (2001, 2005), and if No Exit
doesn't make it a threesome the judges may have to double-check to make sure their ears and taste buds are working properly. While it may be difficult for some to concede that one of the world's foremost big bands resides half a world away from the birthplace of jazz, it is no less true. Trombonist Fox has put together a world-class ensemble, the proof of which is here for everyone to measure and appreciate.
Even so, the recording is not entirely a New Zealand enterprise, as Fox has imported an old friend from Los Angeles, Jon Papenbrook, to play lead trumpet. Also, three of the radiant charts (including "No Exit," written for and first performed by Buddy Rich) were provided by another long-time friend of the band, pianist Bill Cunliffe, with others by fellow New Zealander Alan Broadbent and Americans Bill Stapleton, John LaBarbera, Richard Evans, Don Menza, John Oddo and the late Nat Pierce.
The session opens on a swinging note with Cunliffe's lively, gender-bending revision of a Rodgers and Hart classic, "Have You Met Mr. Jones, which introduces four of the ensemble's stellar soloiststenor saxophonist Pete France, altoist Godfrey De Grut, trombonist Hadyn Godfrey and drummer Graham Cope. France is heard again with pianist Brian Henderson, trumpeter Paul Norman and guitarist Joseph Anderson on Stapleton's driving "Bill's Blues (introduced by the stalwart rhythm section) and with Henderson on LaBarbera's punchy "Toothless Grin. Papenbrook takes his lone solo (calling to mind late-era Maynard Ferguson) on Menza's bluesy "Acid Truth, on which Godfrey also solos.
Fox's silky trombone is showcased on Oddo's lush arrangement of Billy Preston's "You Are So Beautiful, with Anderson's cogent guitar featured on Broadbent's funky "Hitch Hike on a Possum Trot Line. France, Norman and Cope share center stage on Evans' fast-moving "Keep on Keepin' On, De Grut, Cope and trombonist Oliver Emmitt on Cunliffe's buoyant "Night Blood, and Henderson, Norman, Fox and De Grut on Pierce's dynamic "Big Sur Echo. The music is splendid, the band even more so. For those who aren't able to travel to New Zealand to see and hear this remarkable ensemble, No Exit is the next most enchanting port of call.
Track Listing: Have You Met Mr. Jones; Bills Blues; Toothless Grin; The Acid Truth; You Are So Beautiful; Keep on Keepin On; Night Blood; Big Sur Echo; Hitch Hike on a Possum Trot Line; No Exit.
Personnel: Rodger Fox: leader, trombone; Jo Spiers: trumpet; Paul Norman: trumpet; Scott Whiteray: trumpet; George McCallum: trumpet; Godfrey De Grut: alto, soprano sax; Angus Ramsay: alto sax; Pete France: tenor sax; Jonathan Franklin: tenor sax; Andrew Baker: baritone sax; Christopher Fox: trombone; Ben Sheat: trombone; Hadyn Godfrey: trombone; Oliver Emmitt: trombone; Riwai Hina: trombone; Brian Henderson: piano; Joseph Anderson: guitar; Thomas Botting: bass; Grahame Cope: drums. Special guest: Jon Papenbrook: lead trumpet on all tracks.
Year Released: 2007
| Record Label: TBone Records
| Style: Big Band