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Bob Lark and his Alumni Big Band: Sweet Return

Edward Blanco By

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Trumpeter/educator and big band leader Bob Lark, reunites his Alumni Big Band after their critically acclaimed debut Reunion (Jazzed Media 2012), produced some of the best Jazz orchestrations in the business. Sweet Return is the group's encore performance, their return engagement, their audacious follow up and another masterful stroke by leader Lark. This Alumni band is comprised of eighteen players that the trumpeter has directed throughout his nearly thirty years as a band leader and draws on their talents for the fresh new arrangements and original compositions that make this return so sweet.

The music starts swinging right out of the gate with a dynamic new arrangement of Kenny Dorham's "Una Mas" featuring stark solos from the leader, trombonist Craig Sunken, alto saxophonist Randy Hamm and some power-playing from the ensemble. Trombonist Thomas Matta's arrangement of the 1926 classic from Mort Dixon "Bye, Bye Blackbird," is definitely one of the most tasteful tunes on this take with Lark on flugelhorn and saxophonist Scott Burns providing the solos. Among one of Lark's favorite pieces of all time—which he has long wished to record—is the Gil Evans big band arrangement of "The Maids Of Cadiz," finally included here with the leader providing the lead solos.

Another jazz standard taken for a new ride is Billy Strayhorn's immortal "Take The 'A" Train" that jumps the track on a swinging Andrew Janak arrangement featuring Chris Madsen on tenor and pianist Pete Benson doing his best impersonation of Duke Ellington. "Rum Point" is one of three Lark originals that emerge from the pack with "A Narrow Path," and "Old School"—featuring a host of solos from several members of the band—are the other stand out tunes from the trumpeter. The band comes out swinging on the new Benson arrangement of Cole Porter's "The Last Time I Saw Paris" highlighted by shots from trombonist Tim Coffman, alto man Hamm, Benson on piano and Lark on the flugelhorn accompanied well by the brass.

The Jimmy Rowles piece "The Peacocks," is perhaps the most ambitious track of the album delivering different mood swings and containing, as the leader himself describes ..."harmonic subtlety with fluid lines," in a lengthy almost eleven-minute slow burn. The 1948 Thelonious Monk standard "Evidence," is actually a contra fact of the 1928 Jesse Greer classic "Just You, Just Me" and here, arranger Paul McKee designs the tune to showcase a talent-rich cast of players with swinging passages and divine solos that certainly demonstrate the world-class musicianship of this group.

There's no question about this one, Bob Lark and his Alumni Big Band sure know how to sprinkle the sugar and spice up the swing on a tasteful honey-glazed Sweet Return of big band music with large orchestrations and dynamic solo performances sure to capture the attention of jazz aficionados and audiences everywhere and when you think of it, this is just the way big band jazz is supposed to sound.

Track Listing

Una Mas; Bye, Bye Blackbird; The Maids Of Cadiz; Take The 'A' Train; Rum Point; The Last Time I Saw Paris; A Narrow Path; The Peacocks; Old School; Just You, Just Me/Evidence.

Personnel

Bob Lark: trumpet, flugelhorn; Randy Hamm: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone; Glenn Kostur: alto saxophone; Scott Burns: tenor saxophone; Chris Madsen: tenor saxophone; Mark Hiebert: baritone saxophone; Brent Turney: trumpet, flugelhorn; Dan Jonas: trumpet, flugelhorn; Marques Carroll: trumpet, flugelhorn; Kirk Garison: trumpet, flugelhorn; Andy Baker: trombone; Tim Coffman: trombone; Craig Sunken: trombone; Thomas Matta: bass trombone; Bob Rummage: drums; Joe Policastro: bass; Mike Stryker: piano (1-3, 5, 9); Pete Benson: piano (4, 6-8, 10).

Additional information

Title: Sweet Return | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Jazzed Media

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