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Columbus Jazz Orchestra: The Colors of Jazz

Jack Bowers By

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The Columbus Jazz Orchestra has passed its thirtieth anniversary with no visible sign of slowing down. On the contrary, the ensemble has gained new life and evinces a fresh spirit under artistic director Bryon Stripling, whose genial persona enlivens The Colors of Jazz and makes listening more fun than ever.

The sense of merriment is immediately clear on the frisky opener, "Sweet Georgia Brown, wherein Stripling not only sings but plays a down-home New Orleans-style trumpet, as he does later on the heart-tugging anthem "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans? There's one other vocal, by urbane baritone Dwight Lenox on Ellington/Strayhorn's soulful "Something to Live For. The rest is entirely instrumental, and entirely dynamic, straight-ahead and swinging.

Stripling seldom strays from the beaten path for inspiration, and the well-recorded studio session includes perky arrangements of compositions by Wayne Shorter ("Infant Eyes ), Eddie Durham ("Topsy ), Horace Silver ("The Preacher ) and Frank Wess ("Shell Game ), the standards "I Found a New Baby and "'S Wonderful, and the late Hank Marr's soulful arrangement of the traditional hymn "Amazing Grace. Pianist Bobby Floyd easily tames the unruly Hammond B3 in Marr-like fashion on "Grace and "The Preacher (reinforcing cogent solos by tenor Michael Cox on the former, trombonist Jim Masters on the latter). The CJO rings down the curtain with John Clayton's panoramic three-part suite The Color of Jazz ("Primary"/"Byron Blue"/"Sax-hue-Phone").

The soloists—Stripling included—are sharp and sturdy, with Chad Eby a standout on soprano ("New Baby ), alto ("Shell Game ) and tenor sax ("Infant Eyes ). Others leaving a lasting impression are Floyd (on piano and organ), tenors Cox and Pete Mills, trombonist Masters, trumpeter Dwight Adams, flugel Jim Powell and flutist Kris Keith. Drummer Bob Breithaupt anchors the orchestra's muscular rhythm section (Chris Berg, bass; Floyd or Mark Flugge, keyboards).

Though perhaps largely unaware of it, Columbus has a real treasure in the CJO, one of the country's outstanding regional big bands, which reaffirms its strength and versatility while enhancing The Colors of Jazz. If you're unable to visit the neighborhood, this is the next best thing.


Track Listing: Sweet Georgia Brown; 'S Wonderful; I Found A New Baby; Amazing Grace; Infant Eyes; Something To Live For; Topsy; The Preacher; Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans?; Shell Game; The Color Of Jazz: Primary; Byron Blue; Sax-hue-phone.

Personnel: Byron Rooker, Michael Cox, Chad Eby, Pete Mills, Kris Keith: saxophones; Byron Stripling, Wes Orr, Bobby Everhart, Jim Powell, Dwight Adams: trumpets; Linda Landis, Ola Hanson, Jim Masters, Pat Lewis: trombones; Bob Breithaupt: drums; Mark Flugge: piano; Bobby Floyd: piano, Hammond B-3; Chris Berg: bass; Dwight Lenox and Byron Stripling: vocals.

Title: The Colors of Jazz | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Jazz Arts Group

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