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Back in 2007, veteran composer/arranger Jack Cortner (a longtime ghost for the late arranger and orchestrator Billy Byers) released Fast Track, his illustrious debut as a bandleader for the Jazzed Media label, with ex-Stan Kenton and Woody Herman trumpeter Marvin Stamm and his erstwhile sidekick, pianist Bill Mays, as the principal soloists. With Sound Check, Cortner, Stamm, and Mays return triumphantly with virtually the same ensemble drawn from the cream of New York session and Broadway pit musicians.
Stamm's nimble fluegelhorn and frequently Harmon-muted trumpet ride atop Cortner's facile orchestrations, which include two originals, the Art Blakey-flavored "A La Mode" and the James Belushi-sque title track. Throughout the entire album, Mays' unflinching pianism sparkles brilliantly, emerging into the solo spotlight on numerous occasions. In addition to Stamm and Mays, soloists include trombonist Jim Pugh (another ex-Herman Herdsman, featured on "Sometime Ago"), alto saxophonist Jon Gordon (Herbie Hancock's "Cantaloupe Island"), tenorist Dave Tofani (Jerome Kern's "Yesterdays" and the Cole Porter standard "It's All Right with Me"), and drummer John Riley.
Sound Check vividly demonstrates that state-of-the-art, swinging big band jazz still has much to offer in the almost second decade of the 21st century.
Track Listing: Strike Up the Band; Speak Low; Sometime Ago; Cantaloupe Island; Sound Check; Yesterdays; Caravan; Cinema Paradiso Love Theme; A la Mode; You and the Night and the Music; It's All Right with Me.
Personnel: Jack Cortner: leader, composer, arranger; Marvin Stamm: solo trumpet, solo fluegelhorn; Bill Mays: piano; Bob Millikan: trumpet, fluegelhorn; Tony Kadleck: trumpet, fluegelhorn; Danny Cahn: trumpet, fluegelhorn; Bud Burridge: trumpet, fluegelhorn; Frank Greene: trumpet, fluegelhorn; Dave Gale: trumpet, fluegelhorn; Jim Pugh: trombone; Keith O'Quinn: trombone; Tony Studd: trombone; Birch Johnson: trombone; Paul Faulise: bass trombone; Lawrence Feldman: alto saxophone; Jerry Dodgion: alto saxophone; Jon Gordon: alto saxophone, Dave Tofani: tenor saxophone; Dennis Anderson: tenor saxophone; Bob Malach: tenor saxophone; Kenny Berger: baritone saxophone, reeds; Jeff Mironov: guitar; Jay Berliner: guitar; Jay Anderson: bass; John Riley: drums.
As a kid, my mom told me I'd like jazz. I thought she was nuts. Then I went to hear Cannonball Adderley (with Nat Adderley, George Duke, Walter Booker, Roy McCurdy and Airto) and everything changed. Yeah, mom knows best.