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This is the second album I’ve heard by trombonist Ed Wilson’s world-class big band from Down Under. That earlier outing ( Up the Pace ) was quite good; Song for Joel is (on the whole) even better, which speaks well for Wilson and his mates, who comprise a number of Australia’s most respected sidemen. Wilson, who arranged every number and wrote all but five of them, favors handsome melodies that swing always a winning parlay and knows how best to use the band’s component parts to paint colorful and exciting portraits in sound. Wilson also solos smartly on trombone (“Sophisticated Samba,” “Fair Dinkum Blues,” “Jazz County,” the last two muted), bass trumpet (“Scattin’ Latin”) and even sings (“Moments Like This”). Even so, he’s no one-man band, and stands aside for brief but persuasive comments by trumpeters Paul Panichi, Bob Barnard, Peter Cross and Keith Sirling; tenors Paul Williams and David Glyde, alto Trevor Griffin, baritone Lee Hutchings, flautist Col Loughnan, trombonist Bob McIvor, pianist Tony Ansell, percussionist Mark Bowden and drummer Kere Buchanan. Barnard is featured on “All of Me,” Sirling on “Generations in Jazz ’95,” guest trumpeter Peter Dilosa on the Louis Armstrong hit, “What a Wonderful World,” guitarist David Colton (less successfully) on “Tribute 2000” and “House of the Rising Sun.” Colton also solos (with Glyde, Hutchings, Wilson, Peter Allan on banjo and Len Barnard on washboard!) on the playful and aptly named “Jazz Country.” The album closes with Wilson’s poignant “Song for Joel” (showcasing Graham Jesse’s warm soprano saxophone), written in memory of Joel Corrigan who died in an accident in April ’96. From the painting on the album’s cover, the smiling redhead looks to be no more than twelve years old, perhaps even younger. Wilson dedicated the album to Joel and his parents, Barbara and Pat Corrigan. “Joel,” whose subdued opening passage serves as a prelude to themes of joy and optimism, is a memorable end-piece to an album that opens strongly with a colorful reading of the venerable “Waltzing Matilda” and four buoyant Wilson originals “Samba,” “Sailin’,” “Dinkum Blues” and “Generations in Jazz ’94.” A superlative album by an intrepid band of plainspoken Aussies. Put some shrimp on the barbie, kick your shoes off and enjoy.