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Trombone fans will have a good time with this new release from the quintet led by Allen Hermann and Carl Fontana. Fontana passed away in November '03 at age 75, and this is considered his final recording, while Hermann is a well-regarded but little-heard trombonist. Both musicians came from the same Louisiana roots, although ten years apart. Fontana is a seasoned veteran of the big band scene in the '50s, having been a part of the Woody Herman, Kai Winding and especially Stan Kenton organizations, where he was prominently featured. Beginning in the late 1950s, he became based out of Las Vegas and established himself as a primary voice on the instrument there. Al Hermann chose a different vocational route by pursuing a doctorate in physics and a long career at Caltech, Tulane and the University of Arkansas as physicist and educator. Although they had performed together many times, this is the first recording featuring the duo.
Sea Breeze Jazz has thoughtfully provided concise listening notes about the music, insofar as which trombone is featured on which chorus, and has miked the album so that each trombonist is on a separate channel. Although both of the players are similar in style, it is possible to differentiate them, with Hermann retaining a bit more of a N'awlins influence, especially on numbers like "Limehouse Blues." In trying to follow the notes and separate the two bones, I also found myself missing out on the fun and finally decided to just listen and have a good time.
Essentially, both Hermann and Fontana are post war boppers, and they perfectly complement each other. While Fontana plays the melody, Hermann provides inventive fills behind him, and vice versa. The eleven tunes are strictly from the Great American Songbook, and how can you go wrong with titles like "It's You Or No One," "I'm Old Fashioned," or "The Night Has A Thousand Eyes." Listening to these two shining on ballads like "Emily" or "Polka Dots and Moonbeams" is indeed a treat. The aforementioned "Limehouse Blues" is slowed down a bit, so the song doesn't really have that flag-waver quality that it usually exhibits.
The rest of the quintet includes Stefan Karlsson, whose sparkling albums on Justice in the early '90s showed a lot of McCoy Tyner's influence on piano; Bob Badgley, who worked for Joe Williams for a six year period and was the house bassist at the popular NPR Four Queens Jazz Night in Las Vegas; Santo Savino on drums, who provides a crisp pulse; and guitarist Curt Warren, who contributes some tasty, brief solos and support.
Track Listing: It Might As Well Be Spring, I'm Old Fashioned, Meditation, Limehouse Blues, Emily, Stella By Starlight, The Night Has A Thousand Eyes, The Days of Wine And Roses, It's You Or No One, Polka Dots and Moonbeams
Personnel: Allen Hermann, Carl Fontana, trombone; Ssstefan Karlsson, piano; Bob Badgley, bass; Santo Savino,
drums; Curt Warren, gujitar.
As a songwriter and vocalist, I love jazz for the experience of being in the center of intense creativity. It is the most potent form of music for keeping the artist and the audience in the 'now. Being in the moment is essential for humans, and we need help in learning how to do that. As a songwriter, I need the depth of musicality that jazz voicings can give my stories. My songs seem light and whimsical, but the message is not.
I met my main collaborator, Mark Fitzgibbon, at one of his gigs. I needed to do my first original album, and his playing was masterful, robust, and beautiful. At the time, I didn't realize how suited we were as a team. We're onto our 4rth album together.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to a really clear and simple version of a song so you can then hear what the musicians are doing and enjoy their creativity and musicality. Also, you have to see jazz live to appreciate it fully. You'll never feel it the same way listening to a CD or online. You need the vibration to go through your body to really get it!
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