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For those who may have been wondering what those high-tech nerds in California's Silicon Valley do for kicks, here's at least a partial answer. For the past ten years, a number of them have been savoring life after hours as members of the Full Spectrum Jazz big band, a businesslike ensemble devoted to exploring various facets of the music from swing to fusion, Latin to shuffle, ballads to funk, and even rap. Pursuits is FSJ's third album, and like the others, shows that these professionals take their avocation as seriously as they do their day job.
The band makes a splendid entrance, nimbly unraveling Vince Norman's fiery arrangement of Charlie Parker's "Au Privave, and follows that with a lyrical Latin charmer, "No Persigas a las Mujeres (Don't Go Chasing the Women), composed and arranged by guest music director Jon Palacios Jr. Lerner and Loewe's "Almost Like Being in Love is the first of four vocals (doubling my preferred threshold of two per big band album) by baritone Duane Lawrence, who is also heard on Jerome Kern's "The Way You Look Tonight, Sergio Mendez' "So Many Stars and Dizzy Gillespie's "A Night in Tunisia (on which he also raps). Although he does the best he can, Lawrence is a run-of-the-mill singer whose amiable personality helps mask his less than passable timing and articulation.
Dave Brubeck's playful "Raggy Waltz, suitably arranged by Ken Miller, showcases the trombone section, while alto Ruben Salcido and flugel Andy Scott glisten on Salcido's easygoing "Sueños (Dreaming), trumpeter Dan Hallock on Mike Crotty's arrangement of "Somewhere Out There from the film An American Tale. Other highlights include Norman/Clyde Connor's driving tour de force, "This Is Not Here (featuring guitarist Mike Cohen and tenor Chuck Wasekanes), and Bob Florence's dynamic "Willowcrest (spunky solos courtesy of trombonist Mike Humphrey and alto Don Olivet, powerful timekeeping by drummer Carlos Almeida).
Even though made up of part-timers who are playing mostly for fun, Full Spectrum definitely means business when it comes to big band jazz. As listeners in the San Francisco Bay area have come to know, these gentlemen are as earnest about the music as they are about producing microchips and other high-tech gizmos. Pursuits places that ardor in the foreground for everyone to hear and appreciate.
Track Listing: Au Privave; No Persigas a Las Mujeres (Donít Go Chasing the Women); Almost Like Being in Love; Raggy Waltz; SueŮos; The Way You Look Tonight; This Is Not Here; Somewhere Out There; So Many Stars; Willowcrest; A Night in Tunisia.
Personnel: Roger Levinson, Dan Hallock, Todd Gray, Andy Scott: trumpet, flugelhorn; Ruben Salcido: alto sax, flute; Don Olivet: alto, soprano sax; Paul Paternoster, Chuck Wasekanes: tenor sax; Jon Hassan: baritone sax, bass clarinet; Mike Humphrey, Bill Rhea, Doug Miner: trombone; Steve Barnhill: bass trombone; Walter Bankovitch: piano; Mike Cohen: guitar; John Pursel: electric bass; Carlos Almeida: drums; Duane Lawrence: vocals. Special guests -- Jon Palacio Jr: guest director; Marc Eaman: trombone; Willie Garza: percussion; Gena Hassan: flute.
Jazz is a continuing revelation. The best show I ever attended was the
Roots Picnic at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia, or was it Robert
Glasper's Experiment at Lincoln Center, or was it Chick Corea with
Brian Blade at Oberlin College? Most of all I enjoy playing guitar and
composing beats with my Brooklyn-based group Space Captain.