It's not often that a sequel matches the prototype on which it was based, and even less likely that a followup may actually surpass that forerunner. But here we have one of those rare cases, wherein trumpeter Jim Manley's Splendor in the Brass 2 easily outdistances its namesake and role model (which was pretty good, by the way) as it gives the listener almost a full hour of invigorating big band jazzand more.
There are several reasons for the improvement. First, Splendor 2 is better recorded than its precursor, which certainly enhances one's pleasure. Second, Manley has ensured greater variety by singling out various sections of the bandtrumpets ("Do Nothin' Till You Hear from Me, "Lullaby of Birdland ), trombones ("When Sunny Gets Blue, "Triste ), saxophones ("Alone Together, "Easy Living )and showcasing his horn in front of them. Third, Manley has enlisted the services of the renowned guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli, who sweetens the pot with tantalizing solos on five numbers. Pizzarelli and Manley comprise a persuasive duet on a reprise of "Sunny, as do the trumpeter and pianist Jim Owens on "For Maynard, Manley's warm-hearted homage to his mentor, the late monarch of the high C's, Maynard Ferguson.
The full band is heard on "What Is This Thing Called Love, "Soft Winds, "Mas Que Nada and "Lover Come Back to Me, and there are admirable solos on those selections and elsewhere by Owens (on trombone) and fellow trombonist Brett Stamps; saxophonists Aaron Lehde, Larry Smith and Larry Johnson; pianists John Pyatt and Carolbeth True, guitarist Bob Borgstede and bassist Zeb Briscovich. For his part, Manley has no trouble nailing the high notes when necessary, but sees fit to cruise on a more even keel most of the time. The charts are first-rate, especially the four by Owens ("Mas Que Nada, "Sunny, "Easy Living, "Triste ). Manley arranged "Do Nothin', Brett Spainhour "What Is This Thing, Steve Hoover "Soft Winds, Jeff Fairbanks "Alone Together, co-lead trumpeter Frank Goessler "Lover Come Back.
When all the chips have been cashed, the payoff is that Splendor 2 is positively splendid, a more than worthy scion to its progenitor. If nothing else, it should help neutralize the sort of halfhearted and generally slipshod enterprises that have been giving sequels a bad name.
What Is This Thing Called Love?; Soft Winds; Mas Que Nada; When Sunny Gets Blue; Alone Together; Do Nothin
Jim Manley: leader; trumpet, flugelhorn; Frank Goessler, Dan Smith, Bob Ceccarini, Greg
Grooms, Randy Holmes, Keith Moyer: trumpet, flugelhorn; Mike Findley, Tim Stamps: alto
sax; Larry Johnson: tenor sax; Larry Smith: tenor sax, flute; Aaron Lehde: baritone sax;
Brett Stamps, Jim Owens: trombone, piano; Kurt Silver, Wayne Coniglio: trombone; Steve
Wyatt: bass trombone; John Pyatt, Carolbeth True: piano; Bob Borgstede: guitar; Zeb
Briskovich, Jeremy Pfeffer: bass; Joe Weber: drums; Scott Collier, Jack Tartar: percussion.
Special guest artist: Bucky Pizzarelli: guitar (2,6,7,9,11,12).
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