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Bassist Jim Widner, who set the bar incredibly high on his earlier albums as leader of the Jim Widner Big Band (there have been four), clears it handily again on Out of This World, whose name graphically underscores the ensemble's impressive strength and solidarity as well as the album's abundance of superlative charts and hair-raising solos. There are no poll-winners on the premises, simply a group of anonymous blue-collar workers who park their egos at the door and strive together to create bright and tasteful music that speaks eloquently to one's heart and soul. Their success, from this observer's vantage point, is self-evident.
Trombonist Paul McKee leads the parade with genial arrangements of the title song and "Alone Together, preceding alto saxophonist Dave Pietro's softly lyrical "Embrace and Michel Legrand's poignant "You Must Believe in Spring, solicitously scored by trumpeter Vern Sielert. Brett Stamps brings out the best in Sammy Cahn/Jule Styne's "Time After Time, while Scott Whitfield does the same for the Vernon Duke / Ira Gershwin classic, "I Can't Get Started. The intrepid "Horizon Under and sumptuous ensemble piece, "Poetry, were written and arranged by lead alto Kim Richmond, who also framed the session's requisite flag-waver, "When You're Smiling.
The "hair-raising soloists cited earlier include trumpeters Clay Jenkins (showcased on "Alone Together ), Dave Scott and Allen Beeson; trombonists McKee, Stamps and Whitfield; flutist Pietro; saxophonists Richmond, Chip McNeill and Pete Gallio; pianist Chip Stephens, bassist Widner and drummer Gary Hobbs. That's a notably impressive troupe of high-wire artists, and every one of them is sharply focused and securely balanced. Although he doesn't solo, guitarist Bob Borgstede is a reliable cornerstone of the rhythm section. A note in the album's booklet reads, "In loving memory of our guitarist, Bob Borgstede (1979-2007). Bob Borgstede died last May of pancreatitis. He was twenty-seven years old.
We'll never know how much hard work, patience and tenacity it takes to keep thisor any other big bandintact and moving forward in a time of vanishing venues, ludicrous compensation and splintered audiences. Widner has hung in there for more than a decade, one result of which is that, on occasion, we are able to taste and appreciate the fruits of his labors, even if we must travel Out of This World to experience the pleasure.
Track Listing: Out of This World; Alone Together; Embrace; You Must Believe in Spring; Time After Time; Horizon Under; When Youre Smiling; I Cant Get Started; Poetry.
Personnel: Jim Widner: leader, bass; John Harner: trumpet (1-3, 5, 6, 9); Mike Vax: trumpet (1-3, 5, 6, 9); Clay Jenkins: trumpet (1-3, 5, 6, 9); Dave Scott: trumpet (6, 9); Tijuana Julian: trumpet (6, 9); Allen Beeson: trumpet (4, 7, 8); Andy Tichenor: trumpet (4, 7, 8); Kim Richmond: alto sax (1-3, 5, 6, 9); Dave Pietro: alto sax (1-3, 5, 6, 9); Wayne Delano: alto sax (4, 7, 8); Pete Gallio: tenor sax (1-3, 5, 6, 9); Mary Fettig: tenor sax (1-3, 5, 6, 9); Chip McNeill: tenor sax (4, 7, 8); Jon Stone: baritone sax (1-3, 5, 6, 8); Gary Anderson: baritone sax (4, 7, 8); Brett Stamps: trombone (1-3, 5, 6, 9); Paul McKee: trombone (1-3, 5, 6, 9); Dave Stamps: trombone (1-3, 5, 6, 9), Cody Henry: trombone (1, 2, 4, 7, 8); Scott Whitfield: trombone (4, 7, 8); Pete Madsen: trombone (4, 7, 8); Tom Matta: bass trombone (1-3, 5, 6, 9); Matt Hoormann: bass trombone (4, 7, 8); Chip Stephens: piano (1-3, 5, 6, 9); Ken Kehner: piano (4, 7, 8); Bob Borgstede: guitar; Gary Hobbs: drums.