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A second helping of invigorating big-band jazz from the marvelous San Francisco-based ensemble Full Spectrum. Although the liner notes affirm that most (if not all) of FSJ’s members are full-time professionals in Silicon Valley’s high-tech corporations and part-time musicians who simply play for fun, you may have trouble believing that after hearing them perform on Rayna’s Dance, the ensemble’s second exemplary album.
As I wrote in reviewing FSJ’s earlier venture, the appropriately titled First Time Out, “there isn’t the least trace of amateurism within these precincts.” I was impressed by that inaugural enterprise, and even more impressed by Rayna’s Dance. Amateurs or not, these gentlemen definitely know which end of the horn (or whatever) is up.
The band’s name derives from its dedication to exploring and presenting a wide range of styles and genres from swing to fusion while leaving ample space for emerging composers’ works, the latter represented here by Dean Boysen (“Stiletto”), Steve Wiest (“Miles Files”), Dave Metzger (“Licked Clean”) and trumpeter Roger Levinson (the delightful “Rayna’s Dance,” splendidly arranged by Howard Cespedes).
There have been some changes this time around, chief among them the addition of vocalist Duane Lawrence, a debonair baritone who has evidently listened closely to Joe Williams, Lou Rawls, Kevin Mahogany and Mark Murphy, among others. Lawrence is showcased on “In the Evening,” “Moonlight in Vermont,” “Ill Wind” and “Goin’ to Chicago.”
Instrumentally, FSJ is in A-1 form throughout, from Sammy Nestico’s mercurial “Ya Gotta Try” (energized by drummer Carlos Almeida) through Metzger’s funky “Licked Clean,” as well as on “Miles Files,” “Stiletto” and “Rayna’s Dance,” the amorous Victor Young / Ed Heyman standard, “Love Letters,” and Pat Metheny’s rhythmically challenging “First Circle” (which spotlights Walter Bankovitch’s expressive piano).
Soloists are no less admirable, with emphatic pronouncements by trumpeters Levinson, Scott Hecker and Dan Hallock (who also plays superb lead), tenors Chuck Wasekanes and Paul Paternoster, alto Antony Pickard, flutist Ruben Salcido, trombonist Mike Humphrey, percussionist Brad Ranola and guitarist Sebastien Lanson. There’s one “ringer,” trombonist Steve Tyler, who directs the Jazz program at DeAnza college and has performed with Mel Tormé, Harry James, Bill Watrous and many others. Tyler is featured with Lanson and Pickard on “Licked Clean.”
FSJ hangs together by performing at corporate events, Jazz festivals and concerts in local parks and civic centers, and is working to bring its music into schools in the Bay area “to reach children with the wonder of live music early in their lives.” If you live in or around San Francisco, check ‘em outand if not, this recording is as close as it gets.
Contact: FSJ Associates, 806 Keystone Way, Livermore, CA 94550; phone 925-606- 9138 ( www.fsjazz.com ; or www.urrutia.com ; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org)
Track Listing: Ya Gotta Try; In the Evening When the Sun Goes Down; Love Letters; Miles Files; Moonlight in
Personnel: Steve Tyler, Roger Levinson, music directors; Levinson, Dan Hallock, Scott Hecker, Andy Scott,
Dean Boysen (2, 11), trumpet, flugelhorn; Ruben Salcido, alto, soprano sax, flute; Antony Pickard,
alto sax, flute; Paul Paternoster, tenor sax; Chuck Wasekanes, tenor sax, flute; Fred Urrutia, baritone
sax; Bill Rhea, Mike Humphrey, Craig Dunwoody, trombone; Steve Tyler (11), guest trombone
soloist; Steve Fitzsimons, bass trombone; Walter Bankovitch, keyboards; Sebastien Lanson, guitar;
Fred Randolph, bass guitar; Carlos Almeida, drums; Brad Ranola (6), percussion; Duane Lawrence,