It’s hard to believe that 17 years have passed since Steve Wright’s well–endowed big band recorded Take Two (although a glance at the disc’s playing time serves as a conspicuous reminder). Time certainly hasn’t dimmed its luster, nor have the passing years conspired to make Wright’s consistently inventive compositions (eight of the ten are his) sound dated or any less appealing. While solos are consistently sharp, the emphasis is on enterprising ensemble passages, and no song overstays its welcome. The title track, “Take Two,” is solidly in the Sammy Nestico league, and everything else he writes is as brisk and invigorating as a cool drink on a sunny afternoon. The others, guitarist Rick Cornish’s “Ballade” and “Blues Around the Corner” (on which Cornish and trombonist Dave Graf solo), are equally sharp and enlivening. Wright, a former lead trumpeter for the U.S. Air Force’s highly respected Airmen of Note who now makes his home in Minnesota, is a gifted player/composer whose charts not only swing with gusto but are great fun to hear, as is the band, whose members’ names were unknown to me (except for Cornish and Brian Grivna, whose warm alto is the cardinal voice on “Ballade”). Besides Wright, Grivna, Cornish and Graf, there are admirable solos by Dave Karr (tenor on “Hidden Dimple,” “Take Two,” “Doubledad,” flute on “Pickles”), Ken Holmen (tenor on “Who Nose”), soprano Mark Henderson (“Samara”) and pianist Jimmy Hamilton (“Take Two,” “Butterfly”). Although the disc runs for less than 40 minutes, there’s scarcely a moment of “down time.” In other words, everything on Take Two is notably impressive, thoroughly up–to–date and well worth hearing, even though nearly two decades have passed since its inception.
Track listing: Hidden Dimple; Pickles; Samara; Ballade; Take Two; Empathy; Butterfly; Doubledad; Blues Around the Corner; Who “Nose.” (38:21).
Steve Wright, Joe Morrissey, Dave Jensen, Greg Lewis, Fred Webster, trumpets, flugelhorns; Brian Grivna, alto sax; Mark Henderson, alto, soprano sax; Dave Karr, tenor sax, flute; Ken Holmen, tenor sax; Kathy Jensen, baritone sax; John England, Dave Graf, Jim tenBensel, Dean Menten, Steve Devich, trombones; Jimmy Hamilton, piano; Rick Cornish, guitar; Bruce Calin, bass; Gary Gauger, drums; Jay Mattes, percussion (drums on
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