If there were an award for “most improved big band,” the opinion here is that the C–HJO would win going away, as its two most recent albums ( Explosive!, with vibraphonist Milt Jackson, and now Shout Me Out! ) have moved well beyond its earlier endeavors to prove beyond any doubt that this is one of the most talented and exciting ensembles performing anywhere in the lower forty–eight. Clearly, the primary role model is Basie, and the C–HJO is emphatically adhering to the swinging blueprint laid bare by the Count and refined during his many years in the big–band trenches. Co–leader John Clayton’s deeply–grooved “Nice to Meet You” is dedicated to Basie, and there are innumerable splashes of the Count’s peerless style elsewhere on the album, from wailing shout–choruses and assertive rhythms (punctuated by co–leader Jeff Hamilton’s assiduous drum work) to pianist Bill Cunliffe’s spare, Basie–esque phrasings, crisp unison passages by brass and reeds and boppish narratives by the band’s squadron of accomplished soloists. There are three other dedications, Hamilton’s “Max” (for longtime friend and Jazz supporter Max Ketteman), co–leader Jeff Clayton’s “Barbara’s Rose” (for St. Louis Jazz promoter Barbara Rose) and Charles Owens’ “One for Horace Tapscott,” honoring the pianist who was a leading player on the Los Angeles Jazz scene. Bassist John Clayton, the band’s principal composer / arranger, also wrote “Shout Me Out!,” “Plunger Mute Sydrome” (for 22–year–old phenom Isaac Smith) and “Grizzly,” while trumpeter Clay Jenkins contributed “Yellow Flowers After.” Completing the program are the standards “I Want a Little Girl” (charmingly sung and played by veteran trumpeter Snooky Young) and “Day by Day” (featuring Rickey Woodard’s thundering tenor sax) and Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “How Insensitive” (performed not by the band but as a “conversation” between John Clayton’s arco bass and Hamilton’s drums). The other soloists are baritone Lee Callet, guitarist Jim Hershman and both Clayton brothers (John on bowed bass, Jeff on alto) on "Shout Me Out!"; Woodard, Hamilton, Cunliffe and trumpeter Bobby Rodriguez on "Max"; trumpeter Jenkins on "Yellow Flowers"; trumpeter Oscar Brashear, trombonist George Bohanon and bassist Christoph Luty on "Grizzly"; Woodard, Smith and Brashear on "Nice to Meet You"; Cunliffe, Hamilton and alto Owens on "Horace Tapscott"; Jeff Clayton and trombonist Ira Nepus on "Barbaras Rose." If you want to hear a band that has found its niche and speaks in a clear and confident voice, check this one out.
Contact:Fable Records, 307 W. 36th St., 15th Floor, NYC, NY 10018. www.fablerecords.com; Lightyear Entertainment, www.lightyear.com
Shout Me Out!; Max; Plunger Mute Syndrome; Yellow Flowers After; Grizzly; Day by Day; Nice to Meet You; One for Horace Tapscott; Barbara
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