When Jim Manley was in high school his band director and fellow trumpeter, Ed Levinsky, introduced him via records to many of the Jazz world's leading players including one who made an indelible impression that hasn't yet been erased. Manley was blown away by high""note maestro Maynard Ferguson and decided that was the road he wanted to travel. Now, some thirty years later, Manley has assembled a semi""big band (five trumpets, two trombones and rhythm but only two saxophones) to convey a posthumous thank you to Levinsky for prompting his interest in Jazz in general and trumpeters in particular.
To plan the program, Manley revisited many of the LPs he and Levinsky had listened to those many years ago and chose a dozen of his personal favorites for the ensemble to perform. The only exception is his own composition/arrangement, "Weekend in Paris. Manley wrote three other charts, Steve Hoover four, trumpeter Frank Goessler three, trombonist Jim Owens two. Most of the songs are familiar but there are a couple of pleasant surprises including Henry Mancini's bustling bossa "It Had Better Be Tonight (from the film The Pink Panther ) and Gene Austin/Nat Schilkret's chestnut from the '20s, "Lonesome Road, splendidly scored by Hoover.
Manley's St. Louis""based ensemble is first""class and everything swings nicely along without a hitch; if there's substantial criticism to be leveled, it must be directed at the recording itself, in which the rhythm section (especially piano and drums) is too conspicuously recorded while brass and reeds are often thwarted by excessive reverb. Perhaps engineer Greg Trampe was trying to make the group sound more like a fully""stocked big band (which it does anyway).
Although he continues to draw his inspiration from Ferguson, Manley is less the exhibitionist and more the plainspoken jazzman, nailing the high notes when needed (as, for example, on "There Will Never Be Another You ) but as a rule keeping them to a minimum. He's a prudently efficient soloist, as are trombonists Owens and Brett Stamps, reedmen Larry Johnson and Larry Smith, guitarist Bob Borgstrede and pianist Rick Zelle. There's plenty of splendor in this brass, and it could've been even brighter with more support from the control room.
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