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Jazz Articles

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Michael Houstoun with the Rodger Fox Big Band: Concerti

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There is a saying about “the best of both possible worlds," an adage that springs immediately to mind when listening to Concerti, a remarkable collaboration between classical pianist Michael Houstoun and trombonist Rodger Fox's superb big band from Wellington, New Zealand. The captivating program consists of four extended works, two by American pianist / composer Bill Cunliffe, another by New Zealand's own Mike Nock, and the first movement of Sergei Prokofiev's lyrical and dramatic Piano Concerto No. 3, astutely arranged ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

New Zealand School of Music Big Band: Too Cool

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While the latest CD by the splendid New Zealand School of Music Big Band may not be Too Cool, it's definitely chilly enough to demand that the average listener wear earmuffs while sampling its frigid yet at the same time fiery bill of fare. Blues got you down? A few bars of the orchestra's sunny curtain-raiser, Bill Liston's “Blues to Begin With," should cast them into the nearest dustbin. If not, you may be too far gone to benefit from ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

New Zealand School of Music Big Band: Awright Awright

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It's hard to believe this is a school band, no matter what the level. Music director Rodger Fox, a seasoned trombonist who leads his own play-for-pay band, must be extremely pleased and proud of what his students at the New Zealand School of Music in Wellington have accomplished, as their third album, Awright Awright, is superlative from start to finish. The first five numbers, in fact, offer a textbook lesson in how big-band jazz should feel and sound. The ensemble ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Rodger Fox Wellington Jazz Orchestra: The Capitol Sessions

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In July 2012, trombonist Rodger Fox brought his Wellington Jazz Orchestra all the way from New Zealand to Los Angeles to record at the famed Capitol Studios, thus confirming Fox's confidence in the ensemble--one doesn't undertake a trip like that accompanied by musicians whose talents are less than exemplary--while producing an album that is superlative from start to finish, underlining the fact that splendid big bands can be found these days in every corner of the world. ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

The Rodger Fox Big Band: No Exit

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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 ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Rodger Fox with the New Zealand School of Music Big Band: Rodger Fox Presents Ray Woolf

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Here's a splendid album from New Zealand that works two ways: as singer-with-big-band or big-band-with-singer. The singer is Ray Woolf, described by producer/music director/trombonist Rodger Fox as that country's “consummate performer/vocalist/entertainer. The band is from the New Zealand School of Music in Wellington, ably conducted by the selfsame Rodger Fox.

Woolf definitely lives up to his billing, belting out a dozen songs from the Great American Songbook and elsewhere in the manner of a Frank Sinatra, Bobby Darin or Mel ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Rodger Fox and Brian Smith: The LA-NZ Connection

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Jazz truly is a universal language, a premise that is proven again on this spirited post bop studio date by two of New Zealand's most celebrated musicians, trombonist Rodger Fox and saxophonist Brian Smith, backed by a blue-chip West Coast rhythm section--pianist Bill Cunliffe, guitarist Larry Koonse, bassist Tom Warrington, and drummer Joe La Barbera (with Erna Ferry, another charismatic New Zealander, adding seductive vocals on two tracks).

Fox, who leads New Zealand's foremost big band, and Smith, who honed ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

The Rodger Fox Big Band: A Rare Connection

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Last year was the thirtieth for trombonist Rodger Fox's world-class big band from faraway New Zealand, and the celebration was marked by the release of yet another mouth-watering banquet of swinging, straight-ahead jazz from Down Under. This is either the band's sixteenth or seventeenth album, depending on whether one includes Devil May Care, a session from four years ago on which the ensemble backs vocalist Erna Ferry. I've missed all but the last five but don't aim to make that ...


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