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US Navy Commodores Jazz Ensemble: Three Shades of Blue

Jack Bowers By

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While the Army and Air Force have a number of world-class jazz ensembles garrisoned here in the States and abroad, the Navy has essentially one, the Commodores, so it had better be good.

It is.

In fact, the Commodores are better than good, boasting enough seagoing firepower to stare down such well-equipped armadas as the Airmen of Note, Army Blues and other topnotch service bands without blinking, as they prove again on Three Shades of Blue. I've been a fan of the Commodores since I heard them perform in concert a number of years ago at the National Institute for Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland, and afterward listened to their impressive recordings M Street SE, Here and Now and Live!, and there's nothing on Blue to darken that glowing opinion.

On the contrary, these gentlemen (and one lady) not only play marvelously, collectively and individually, they write superbly as well. Half of the dozen selections on Blue and all of the arrangements were inscribed by members of the ensemble. Baritone saxophonist Robert Holmes composed "Blues for a Change, "The Green Umbrella and "If the Shoe Fits ; tenor Stephen Williams "Tuning Up the Hurricane and "Cathal Brugha Blues ; pianist Dan LaMaestra "Revell's Reverie. LaMaestra arranged Dizzy's "A Night in Tunisia, while Williams did the same for Jim Snidero's "Ventura and Stevie Wonder's "Overjoyed, Holmes for Rodgers and Hart's "I'll Take Romance, the last two nicely sung by Yolanda Pelzer. Another tenor, Philip Burlin, doubles as arranger and soloist on Ellington's "In a Sentimental Mood, as does trombonist Jennifer Krupa (one of the IAJE's "Sisters in Jazz a few years back) on Tommy Flanagan's "Freight Trane.

Soprano saxophonist Michael Mulligan dances happily beneath the sturdy "Green Umbrella, and mention must be made of lead trombonist David Perkel's lustrous tone on the cozy "Shoe (which encloses a graceful solo by flugel Timothy Stanley). Tenor Luis Hernandez offers snappy remarks on the blustery "Hurricane and (with Holmes) on "Cathal Brugha, while LaMaestra is a standout with Stanley (trumpet) on "Tunisia, Williams (alto) on "Ventura, Mulligan (soprano) and bassist Randy Mattson on "Reverie. Krupa's charming muted trombone solo on "Trane is complemented by Burlin's tenor and Stanley's trumpet. Each of the originals is admirable, with high marks as well for the persuasive charts by Krupa ("Trane ), Williams ("Ventura ) and Burlin ("Sentimental Mood ).

In sum, another thoroughly pleasurable and stress-free voyage by the unsinkable Navy Commodores.


Track Listing: Blues for a Change; The Green Umbrella; A Night in Tunisia; Tuning Up the Hurricane; If the Shoe Fits; I

Personnel: William Moore, Thomas Palance, Christopher Walker, Timothy Stanley: trumpet; Philip Burlin, Stephen Williams, Luis Hernandez, Robert Holmes, William Mulligan: reeds; Jamie Way, Jennifer Krupa, Mark Morgan, David Perkel: trombone; Dan LaMaestra: piano; David Malvaso: guitar; Randy Mattson: bass; John Parsons: drums; Yolanda Pelzer: vocals.

Title: Three Shades of Blue | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: USNC

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