646

The United States Army Blues Jazz Ensemble: Blues at Thirty-Five

Nicholas F. Mondello By

Sign in to view read count
The United State Army Blues Jazz Ensemble: The United States Army Blues Jazz Ensemble: Blues at Thirty-Five The United States Army Blues Jazz Ensemble
Blues at Thirty-Five
US Army Blues Jazz Ensemble
2008

The cover art of Blues at Thirty-Five depicts an eerie Edward Hopper Nighthawks-like scene. A corner jazz club, street light shining over an empty sidewalk, nobody around. Based on what's so magnificently offered up in the US Army Blues Jazz Ensemble's 2CD set Blues at Thirty-Five, it can only be assumed that everyone is inside the club and thoroughly enjoying the incredible individual and collective talents of this terrific jazz ensemble. Awesome is such a trite and overused description today, but whatever the next level of big band performance excellence is, this is definitely it.



Founded in 1974, the Ensemble, an element of the US Army Band (aka Pershing's Own), is comprised of some of the finest jazz musicians in the country. While there are a few ghost big bands out there haunting away today, the Ensemble would stand up admirably to any big band—or studio aggregation—now or in the past. Perhaps they'd even surpass some of the original bands in technical ability, fire and tightness. The Ensemble are a powerful group, swinging wonderfully, articulately tight yet tasteful. Their ensemble, solo work and wonderful compositions and arrangements nod respectfully at the greatest of jazz ensembles, from trumpeter Louis Armstrong's and drummer Art Blakey's groups to pianist Count Basie's big band.



From the first swinging bars of drummer MSG Steve Fidyk's brush fire on "Cochise," the excitement, humor, soul and improvisational experimentation is First Class. SFC David T. Brown's clarinet solo flies and SFC Graham Breedlove's cupped trumpet shines. "Lester Thinks Twice" builds in intensity from deep down below and sends MSG John DeSalme off on a tenor saxophone solo foray that would make tenor icon Lester Young's pork pie hat leap. The ensemble's call and response with MSG Craig Fraedrich's burning trumpet solo adds more fire. More MSG, please. "Farewell (For My Father)," written and beautifully performed by saxophonist SFC Joseph Henson, touches the heart. The phenomenal lead work of trumpeter Liesl Whitaker is splendid here and throughout. She has to rate with some of the finest lead trumpeters out there—or rather up there. "Hmmm..." flits around a cycle of fifths cliche in a quirky-jerky manner. Pianist SGM Anthony Nalker takes off on a Thelonious Monk-ish ride and trumpeter SFC Kenneth Rittenhouse adds some funky solo sauce.



The Ensemble draws talent nationwide and each musician brings a unique perspective and musical seasoning to the mix. Louisiana native and trumpeter Graham Breedlove's "NOLA's Lament/NOLA's Return" demonstrates this concept nicely. Dedicated to the people of New Orleans, the womb of jazz, the beautiful lament—and later struttin'—get juices going. Dig Whitaker's take-you-with-me lead trumpet screaming and shaking. Saxophonist/trumpeter Eddie Harris's "Freedom Jazz Dance," the title cut of the first disc, highlights MSG James Roberts' guitar, high-energy solos by saxophonists SSG Antonio Ortiz and SFC Joseph Henson, and a drum solo that is pure percussion art by Steve Fidyk. "Black Sugar" is soul with a ballsy feature by baritone saxophonist SFC David T. Brown. "Skylark" gets a warm approach here with SFC Harry Watters and his trombone cadre taking us out for a leisurely stroll before moving into a samba sway. "What It's Called" cooks over Cole Porter's "What Is This Thing Called Love" changes. It's terrific.



Demonstrating the versatility of the Ensemble, and, in a manner reflective of Duke Ellington's or Stan Kenton's highlighting sections or soloists, CD2, entitled "The Blues a la Carte," showcases smaller jazz groups drawn from the big band. From the "Sidewinder" swing of "Last of the Soul Brothers," the straight-ahead hard bop of "Time to Leave" and "Verificatin,'" to the pure Dixieland romp-n-stomps of "Hindustan" (a real joy) and "Lazy River," the Ensemble demonstrate their ability to cook in a number of jazz-related environments. The musicianship is A-1 caliber throughout this enjoyable array of selections. Savor it as a Second Course.



Blues at Thirty-Five is a musical achievement of which all involved can be extremely proud. The recording and production values are as excellent as the talent they document. Whether played by military or civilian musicians, great jazz is great jazz. And this outstanding effort by these soldier-musicians is definitely great big (and small) band jazz.



Happy Anniversary, US Army Blues Jazz Ensemble. You are indeed awesome at Club Thirty-Five. Waiter, another round, please!






Tracks: CD1 (Freedom Jazz Dance): Cochise; Azure Te; Lester Thinks Twice; Farewell (For My Father); Hmmm...; NOLA's Lament/NOLA's Return (For the People of New Orleans and South Louisiana); Freedom Jazz Dance; Black Sugar; Skylark; What It's Called. CD2 (Blues a la Carte): Last of the Soul Brothers; Hindustan; West Coast Blues; Time to Leave; Waltz New; Up A Lazy River; Mantis; Verificatin'; Blues a la Carte; Birdlike; You Are My Sunshine.



Personnel: CW5 Charles H. Vollherbst: director; SSG Antonio L. Orta, SSG Bill E. Linney, SFC Joseph D. Henson, MSG John W. DeSalme, SFC David T. Brown: saxophones; SSG Liesl M. Whitaker, SFC Graham E. Breedlove, SFC Mark A. Wood, SFC Kenneth R. Rittenhouse, SGM Craig C. Fraedrich: trumpets; MSG Matthew F. Niess, SFC Harry F. Watters, MSG William L. Holmes, SFC Jeffrey J. Cortazzo: trombones; SGM Anthony W. Nalker: piano; MSG James F. Roberts: guitar; SSG Regan J. Brough: bass; MSG Steve Fidyk: drums.

Track Listing: Disc 1: Cochise; Azure Te; Lester Thinks Twice; Farewell (For My Father); Hmmm...; NOLA's Lament/NOLA's Return (For the People of New Orleans and South Louisiana; Freedom Jazz Dance; Black Sugar; Skylark; What It's Called. Disc 2: Last of the Soul Brothers; Hindustan; West Coast Blues; Time to Leave; Waltz New; Up A Lazy River; Mantis; Verificatin' Blues a la carte; Birdlike; You Are My Sunshine

Personnel: CW5 Charles H. Vollherbst, Director; SSG Antonio L. Orta, SSG Bill E. Linney, SFC Joseph D. Henson, MSG John W. DeSalme, SFC David T. Brown, saxophones; SSG Liesl M. Whitaker, SFC Graham E. Breedlove, SFC Mark A. Wood, SFC Kenneth R. Rittenhouse, SGM Craig C. Fraedrich, trumpets; MSG Matthew F. Niess, SFC Harry F. Watters, MSG William L. Holmes, SFC Jeffrey J. Cortazzo, trombones; SGM Anthony W. Nalker, piano; MSG James F. Roberts, guitar; SSG Regan J. Brough, bass; MSG Steve Fidyk, drums.

Title: The United States Army Blues Jazz Ensemble: Blues at Thirty-Five | Year Released: 2008


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band 50th Anniversary Super Deluxe  Edition Extended Analysis Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band 50th...
by Doug Collette
Published: May 27, 2017
Read Grateful Dead: Cornell '77 Extended Analysis Grateful Dead: Cornell '77
by Doug Collette
Published: May 6, 2017
Read Chick Corea: The Musician Extended Analysis Chick Corea: The Musician
by John Kelman
Published: May 2, 2017
Read Ella Fitzgerald: 100 Songs For A Centennial Extended Analysis Ella Fitzgerald: 100 Songs For A Centennial
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: April 29, 2017
Read "The Beatles: Live At The Hollywood Bowl" Extended Analysis The Beatles: Live At The Hollywood Bowl
by Doug Collette
Published: September 11, 2016
Read "Alex Cline's Flower Garland Orchestra: Oceans of Vows" Extended Analysis Alex Cline's Flower Garland Orchestra: Oceans of Vows
by John Kelman
Published: March 23, 2017
Read "The Doors' 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition" Extended Analysis The Doors' 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition
by Doug Collette
Published: April 1, 2017
Read "Various Artists: Yugoslavian Space Program" Extended Analysis Various Artists: Yugoslavian Space Program
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: October 29, 2016
Read "Grateful Dead: Cornell '77" Extended Analysis Grateful Dead: Cornell '77
by Doug Collette
Published: May 6, 2017
Read "Big Star: Complete Third" Extended Analysis Big Star: Complete Third
by Doug Collette
Published: October 15, 2016

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.