To those who know him, it's no secret that Stan Bann is partial to the trombone. After all, the Minnesota-based composer / arranger plays one himself, leads Stan Bann's Big Bone Band and is a mainstay as writer and performer with the Minneapolis Trombone Choir. And as if that weren't a large enough clue, Bann welcomes to his new CD, Penmanship, four of the country'sand arguably the world'smost accomplished trombone maestros: in alphabetical order, Andy Martin, Bob McChesney, Ian McDougall and Dave Steinmeyer. As icing on the cake, the album's title track (which for reasons unknown isn't included) was written for solo trombone, four tenor trombones, two bass trombones, euphonium, tuba and rhythm.
Needless to say, the trombone plays a prominent role on every number. It must share honors, however, with Bann's invariably luminous and charming compositions and charts (he arranged the lot and penned every theme save the traditional hymn "Amazing Grace" and Louis Armstrong's syrupy crowd-pleaser, "What a Wonderful World"). It also goes without saying that Bann's guest soloists are exemplary (Martin and McChesney trading volleys on "Fait Accompli," Steinmeyer on "Petrichor" and "Stonebridge," McDougall on the irrepressible finale, "Fata Morgana"). Bann solos twice, on the sunny curtain-raiser, "Duende," and the alluring "Morning, Beautiful." On every number, the soloists are admirably supported by Jim tenBensel and the Minneapolis Trombone Choir or the pitch-perfect Big Bone Band.
"Amazing Grace" was arranged to showcase the trombone choir sans solos, as were the colorful "Violet Morning," "It's a Wonderful World" and full-throated "All Who've Gone Before." In every case, beauty is the predominant trait, one that is evidently inherent in Bann's approach to music in general and the trombone in particular. He writes always with the responsive listener in mind, which makes his compositions an unequivocal pleasure to hear and appreciate. A word or two about Bann's guest artists: in Los Angeles, the recording studios are home to the most talented and sought-after players, and that is where Martin and McChesney spend much of their time; McDougall is an alumnus of Rob McConnell's Boss Brass (enough said), while Steinmeyer is a former sideman with and leader of the peerless USAF Airmen of Note. They and the other trombones are steadfastly reinforced by a blue-chip rhythm section comprised of pianist Cheryl Bann, bassist Bruce "Pooch" Heine and drummer Andy Artz.
Even though Penmanship clocks in at a modest forty-nine minutes, not one of them is wasted. For trombone lovers, an abundance of uncommon riches.
Duende; Fait Accompli; Violet Morning; Petrichor; All Who’ve Gone Before; Morning, Beautiful; Amazing Grace; Stonebridge; What a Wonderful World; Fata Morgana.
Stan Bann: leader, composer, arranger, trombone; Dave Steinmeyer: trombone; Ian McDougall: trombone; Andy Martin: trombone; Bob McChesney: trombone; Cheryl Bann: piano; Bruce Heine: bass; Andy Artz: drums. Minneapolis Trombone Choir, Stan Bann’s Big Bone Band (personnel unlisted).
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