The first time I reviewed an album by the Joe Sullivan Big Band was in a blindfold test. I had no idea whose band it was or where it was based. After lavishing praise on the ensemble as a whole and its various soloists, I summarized the analysis by writing, "This is a world-class big band performing top-notch material on a marvelously recorded album.... Sullivan, a trumpeter who makes his home and his living in Montréal, Canada, has now released a second CD, Stop and Listen, and I am happy to report that my "blind impression remains essentially unchanged.
Sullivan wrote and arranged everything, and progressive variety is his forte. While you probably won't spend the day humming any of these tunes, they are never less than engaging, and they provide solid springboards for an assortment of able soloists. Soprano saxophonist André Leroux is featured on the saucy opener, "Sambalaroo, and there are tasteful showcases for alto Rémi Bolduc ("Le Bolduc ) and lead trombonist Dave Grott ("One for Dave ). Sullivan, an impressive soloist in his own right, spars with Leroux on the provocative "Stop and Listen, and with bassist Alec Walkington (great name for a timekeeper) and drummer Dave Laing on the playful, Thad Jones-like "Trickle.
Baritone Jean Fréchette and pianist André White share the spotlight on the slow-cooked "Pat's Visit, Bolduc and trumpeter Aron Doyle on the rapid-fire "Rémi Partout, Laing, tenor Al McLean and skyscraping lead trumpeter Jocelyn Couture on the smoking finale, "Blackjack. Fréchette's muscular solo on "Visit is one among many reasons to pause and pay heed, as is the ensemble's sharp and resourceful rhythm component (White, Walkington, Laing). A guitarist, Carlos Jimenez, is also listed, but try as I may, I can't hear him.
Stop and Listen has much in common with the band's earlier recording, which in itself is enough to earn one's seal of approval. Sound quality is admirable, the 64 minute playing time well above average. Should you choose to linger and eavesdrop, you'll no doubt agree that in English, French or any language, the Joe Sullivan Big Band is formidable.
Joe Sullivan: leader, trumpet; Jocelyn Couture, Jocelyn Lapointe, Aron Doyle, Bill Mahar: trumpet; R
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