The Young Sounds of Arizona (forty high–school students ages 14–19, not all of whom perform on this album) aren’t in fact Ringers, as the album’s name insinuates — they only play that way! For those few who are unfamiliar with the term, a “ringer,” according to Webster, is “a substitute or addition, as a professional musician hired to strengthen a school orchestra.” While one might swear that is precisely what has happened here, it most emphatically has not. A ringer is further defined as “a fraud, impostor or fake,” but you’ll bump into none of those specimens within these precincts either. The Young Sounds are the real thing; what you see is what you hear — and that’s plenty, especially from teen–agers who come from more than twenty schools in the greater Phoenix area. The YSA, sponsored by the Professional Musicians of Arizona, AFM Local 586, was formed in 1971, and is the oldest such non–profit program in the country. Hugh Lovelady was named director in 1996, and the plan established nearly three decades ago has continued onward and upward from there. While Lovelady may be no Captain Bligh, he shows little mercy toward his young charges, tossing them headlong off the 10–meter board into the choppy waters of Allen Carter’s mercurial “Eldon, John and the Boys” and challenging them to sink or swim. Not only do they bob quickly to the surface, they complete a number of errorless laps around the changes and have enough surplus energy to reinforce sharply drawn solos by tenor saxophonist Tyler Isaacson and trumpeter Armando Silva. Speaking of soloists, most of them are seasoned beyond their years, with Isaacson one of the more consistently impressive, as he shows clearly on Ellington’s “Sentimental Mood,” arranged by the peerless Mike Crotty, and John Coltrane’s dynamic “Impressions.” Kim Richmond’s lush tone poem, “Veridian,” with overtones from classical to funk, was commissioned for the Young Sounds (who play it as though it were meant for them alone). Bob Dentz arranged Basie’s “Jumpin’ at the Woodside,” Lennie Niehaus the standard “But Beautiful” to precede marvelous compositions / arrangements by Trane, Matt Harris (“No Matter”), Jack Peterson (“Green Bossa”) and Mike Tomaro (“Blues for Hire”). Trumpeter Martin Patfield and trombonist Justin Folsom share solo honors on “Woodside,” guitarist Phil Adkins is featured on “But Beautiful” and “No Matter” (with unremitting help on the latter from drummer Nick Segal), and they are paired again to good advantage on the funky “No Matter” (which includes razor–sharp ensemble work as well). Segal moves to congas and bongos on the wistful “Green Bossa,” whose equally pensive tenor solo is delivered by Isaacson whose temperament shifts to gutsy on the roaring finale, “Blues for Hire.” Also blowing hot on “Blues” are trombonist Folsom and trumpeter Kevin Tangney. In the Grand Canyon State, this carefully assembled group of outstanding young musicians is performing a grand service by helping to keep the big–band tradition alive and swinging into the 21st century. So commendable that we’ll even brush aside the meager 46:05 playing time.
Track listing: Eldon, John and the Boys; In a Sentimental Mood; Viridian; Jumpin’ at the Woodside; But Beautiful; Impressions; No Matter; Green Bossa; Blues for Hire (46:07).
Hugh Lovelady, director; Brian Petterson, Beau Schenck, Tyler Isaacson, David Kerr, Kyle Sanner, saxophones; Justin Folsom, Matt Kerr, Laura Sparks, Miguel Zarate, trombones; Kevin Tangney, Armando Silva, Stuart Brown, Martin Patfield, Joseph Collins, trumpets; Cara Eisinger, piano; Phillip Adkins, guitar; Jeff Kerestes, bass; Nick Segal, Chris Elston, drums.