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The Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Alumni Big Band: Things to Come

Jack Bowers By

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So who needs the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band anyway? Jon Faddis, whose whose widely acclaimed CHJB has been shown the door by the powers that be (its last concert will be presented this month at the Hollywood Bowl), has landed on his feet—and how!—as music director of the aptly-named Dizzy Gillespie Alumni All-Star Big Band. If Things to Come, recorded live in September 2000 at Pittsburgh's Manchester Craftsmen's Guild, can be taken as a measure of the band's proficiency, Faddis has simply moved laterally from one remarkable ensemble to another. There are times when the term "all-star" is misused, but this isn't one of them. I don't know how Faddis, or whoever, managed to herd all these talented cats onto one bandstand but I'm enormously pleased that it was done. The hardest task the leader faced on Things to Come must have been deciding who was to solo, as almost everyone in the band (not excepting Faddis himself) is a superlative improviser. The trumpet section—Faddis (sounding more and more like the legitimate heir to Diz's throne he was always meant to be), Earl Gardner, Greg Gisbert, Terell Stafford, Claudio Roditi—is to die for, as is the reed section, which boasts veteran Frank Wess and young lion Antonio Hart on alto, household names James Moody and Jimmy Heath on tenor, Vanguard Jazz Orchestra mainstay Gary Smulyan on baritone. Slide Hampton leads a robust trombone section that includes Jay Ashby and David Gibson with Douglas Purviance on bass trombone. And we mustn't overlook the band's awesome rhythm section, enlivened by pianist Renee Rosnes, anchored by drummer Dennis Mackrel, rounded out by guitarist Marty Ashby, percussionist Duke and bassist / program director John Lee. The program Lee chose for this concert is beyond reproach, encompassing four songs with Dizzy's name as author or co-author, three Jazz classics by Benny Golson, the Hammerstein / Romberg standard "Lover Come Back to Me" and buoyant compositions by Quincy Jones ("Jessica?s Day") and the recently departed and already greatly missed Ray Brown ("Ray's Idea"). Faddis, the most frequently heard soloist, is showcased with Mackrel on "Lover," Stafford on Golson's "I Remember Clifford," Roditi and Heath on "Ray's Idea." Rosnes, who commands center stage half a dozen times, is consistently sharp and resourceful, and there are persuasive comments along the way by Hart, Moody, Wess, Hampton and both Ashbys, trombonist Jay and guitarist Marty. When all is said and done, there's nothing about this album I didn't earnestly embrace and appreciate. It's rather like listening to a more heated version of Wynton Marsalis's Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra.

Contact: Manchester Craftsmen's Guild, 1815 Metropolitan St., Pittsburgh, PA 15233. Phone 412?322?1773, xt. 140. Web site, www.mcgjazz.org

Track Listing: Stablemates; Jessica's Day; Things To Come; "Round Midnight; Manteca; Lover Come Back To Me; Emanon; Whisper Not; I Remember Clifford; Ray's Idea; A Night In Tunisia. (Total Time: 70:19).

Personnel: John Faddis, Earl Gardner; Terell Stafford; Claudio Roditi-- Trumpet; Slide Hampton; Jay Ashby; David Gibson; Douglas Purviance-- Trombone; John Lee-- Bass; Dennis Mackrel-- Drums; James Moody, Jimmy Heath-- Tenor Saxophone; Frank Wess, Antonio Hart-- Alto Saxophone; Gary Smulyan-- Baritone Saxophone; Duke- Percussion; Marty Ashby-- Guitar; Renee Rosnes.

Title: Things to Come | Year Released: 2002 | Record Label: MCG Jazz


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