Composer / arranger Alan Baylock
seems to have a penchant for time. Prime Time
is the Baylock Jazz Orchestra's third album, following Two Seconds to Midnight
(2003) and Eastern Standard Time
(2008). This time (no pun intended), Baylock, who doubles as chief arranger for the U.S. Air Force's premier jazz ensemble, the Airmen of Note, has enlisted the services of the seemingly ageless trumpet master Doc Severinsen
(of Tonight Show Band
fame) who pays Father Time no heed while shining brightly on three of the album's nine numbers. Prime Time
opens in a vibrant, funky mood with Baylock's emphatic arrangement of Eddie Harris
' "Cold Duck Time" (another sequential reference) before moving on to a trio of the leader's high-spirited and tasteful compositions: "The Phrygian Five," "Torque," "El Abrazo." The orchestra, comprised for the most part of seasoned members of the Airmen of Note and other service bands from the nation's capital, nails them to the wall, as it does everything else strewn in its path. Severinsen, a youthful eighty-seven when Prime Time
was recorded, puts his high-note skills to good use on the Vincent Youmans / Irving Caeser standard "I Want to Be Happy," solos brightly (with tenor saxophonist Tyler Kuebler) on Kurt Weill's "September Song" and switches to flugelhorn for another star turn on the Lerner and Loewe classic "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face."
Sandwiched between "September Song" and "Her Face" is Baylock's lone misstep, an extended version (more than eleven minutes) of John Lennon / Paul McCartney's lackluster "Hey Jude," which soon wears out its welcome in spite of able solos by Kuebler, guitarist Shawn Purcell
and trumpeter Alex Norris
. The ensemble redeems itself with a torrid reading of Baylock's hard-swinging finale, "Blues for Stew's Shoes" (assertive solos courtesy of Kuebler, flugel Tim Leahey
, baritone Doug Morgan, tenor Luis Hernandez
, alto Antonio Orta
, trombonist Jeff Martin and drummer Todd Harrison
). The versatile Harrison governs the orchestra's splendid rhythm section, whose other members are Purcell, pianist Bob Larson and bassist Paul Henry. Larson and Orta solo smartly on "The Phrygian Five," Purcell and trombonist Matt Niess
(muted) on "Cold Duck Time," Norris and trombonist Ben Patterson
on "Torque," Hernandez on "El Abrazo."
In sum, Prime Time
serves as an admirable showcase for the Baylock Jazz Orchestra in what is presumably its swan song, as in January 2016 Baylock returns to his alma mater, the University of North Texas, to take command of the university's flagship ensemble, the One O'Clock Lab Band. Well-wishes for Baylock's success are entwined with an assurance that listeners may soon be savoring the fruits of his impending enterprises at UNT.
Cold Duck Time; The Phrygian Five; Torque; El Abrazo; I Want to Be Happy; September Song; Hey Jude; I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face; Blues for Stew’s Shoes.
Alan Baylock: leader, composer, arranger; Brian MacDonald: trumpet; Mark Wood: trumpet; Alex Norris: trumpet; Tim Leahey: trumpet; Michael Christie: trumpet; Antonio Orta, Grant Langford, Luis Hernandez, Tyler Kuebler, Doug Morgan: saxophones; Ben Patterson: trombone; Jeff Martin: trombone; Matt Niess: trombone; Jeff Cortazzo: trombone; Shawn Purcell: guitar; Bob Larson: piano; Paul Henry: bass; Todd Harrison: drums. Special guest – Doc Severinsen: trumpet (5, 6), flugelhorn (8).