Here's a big band that literally "walks" right into your heart, thanks to the peerless Sammy Nestico's groove-laden charts and a stellar cast of well-tempered West Coast pros who knowingly toss 'em off without breaking a decent-sized sweat. So, as Butch Cassidy wondered about the posse pursuing him and the Sundance Kid, who are these guys? If names like Christlieb, Jolly, Andy Martin, Sal Lozano, Kim Richmond, Chuck Berghofer, Ron Stout, Alex Iles, Gregg Field, Bruce Otto or Wayne Bergeron don't ring a bell, you may need a refresher course in Big Bands 101. While the others in the band are perhaps less well-known, they are certainly no less capable. The least familiar name in the lineup may be that of the leader. Al Sanada, a saxophonist (Stan Kenton, Harry James), former major league baseball player (St. Louis Cardinals) and professional boxer (11 wins in 12 bouts, all by knockout), has been fronting his own ensemble for more than 40 years. He wanted the band's second recording (the first was released more than a decade ago) to be special, so he engaged one of the most celebrated big-band arrangers in the business (Nestico) and amplified half a dozen of his long-time regulars with the best sidemen he could find. As a leader, Sanada subscribes to Woody Herman's sage advice: "Hire the best players, give 'em a downbeat, and get out of their way." And that's about all that need be done with this cadre of seasoned veterans whose s.q. (swing quotient) approaches 9.0 on the Richter scale. The band starts walkin' immediately on "Blues Machine" (pushed along by Jolly, Berghofer and Field's electrifying intro) and doesn't slacken the pace until it arrives safely home nearly an hour later at the end of Sammy's sizzling flag-waver, "The Heat's On." Along the way are marvelous renditions of several well-crafted Nestico originals ("Small Talk," "Samantha," "88 Basie Street," "Pleasin'") and arrangements ("Fascinating Rhythm," "Satin Doll," "It's a Wonderful World," "Smack Dab in the Middle," "Who's Sorry Now"). Soloists are first-class - especially Christlieb, Jolly, Martin, Stout and Lozano - and the ensemble as a whole manages to sound relaxed and easygoing while generating abundant heat and enunciating phrases with an almost machine-like precision (for an example, dig the formidable trumpet/trombone soli on "Fascinating Rhythm"). Much of the credit for this must go to Jolly, Berghofer and Field who know how to kick a band hard at any tempo with only the merest suggestion that they are firmly in command. '98 has been a banner year for big-band releases, and this is beyond a doubt one of the most listener-friendly sessions to date.
The Blues Machine; Small Talk; Fascinating Rhythm; Satin Doll; It's a Wonderful World; Smack Dab in the Middle; Samantha; Who's Sorry Now; 88 Basie Street; Pleasin'; The Heat's On (58:24).
Wayne Bergeron, Ron Stout, Darrell Gardner, Kevin Richardson, Gary Holopoff, trumpets; Pete Christlieb, Bill Baker, Sal Lozano, Alden Waldow, Tom McClure, Jay Migliori, Ernie Delfante, Kim Richmond, saxophones; Andy Martin, Alex Iles, Bob Smith, Bruce Otto, Charlie Morillas, trombones; Pete Jolly, piano; Chuck Berghofer, bass; Gregg Field, drums.
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.