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The Greg Hopkins 16 Piece: Okavongo

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Put together from 2 sessions in January 1997 and January 1998 at Berklee Studios in Boston, Greg Hopkins' more than 16 piece machinery elicits a big band movement with less swing and more contemporary jazz. The 7 minute 'Infant Eyes' is a perfect example of using a lot of people in a smooth jazz setting, occasionally rising up loud and strong, but often laying a solid sax foundation onto which everything else is built. Joe Hunt's constant clicks (and this drum man is one of the regulars on the cd) drowse like a well-oiled clock ticking at night, setting you straight into thoughts of dreamland. Well, Joe combined with the umpteen other pros here does it.

Together, these guys have played the road with Buddy Rich, Woody Herman, Art Blakely, Stan Getz and whoever else you wanna name. Greg Hopkins, band leader guy, wrote all but 3 of these instrumentals, and if you don't see his name listed in the musician sections, don't fret. The man's plenty busy pulling so much blow together. If he arranged it all as well: the cat's hip and much experienced in the seldom-practiced art of big club sound.

The big club sound has rather died out as a mainstay, with trios and short combo units filling small stages and not milking the payrolls that orchestras used to. But like a large Broadway cast, it's grand to hear a larger than life sound again. 'Sphere of T.M. Part 2' should renew your love of melting horns, barking saxophones and a rhythm you can jump against.

As much brass as there is, I wouldn't call it an intensely brassy sound. No strings, true, but there is a vast feeling of orchestral Harlem jig to the disc. From the way jazz evolved in the 30s, then had its resurgence in the 50s, there is that togetherness sparked on by the baton holder ever present here.

If you're into the more intimate recordings, this probably isn't your potato. But it's hot.


Track Listing: Stretchin

Personnel: Greg Hopkins, leader, trumpet, flugelhorn; Larry Monroe, Bruce Nifong, Mark Pinto (5, 8, 9), ato sax, flute; Bill Pierce, tenor, soprano sax; Greg Badolato, John Greiner (2

Title: Okavongo | Year Released: 2001


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