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Mark Taylor and the BigBand: To the Edge

Nicholas F. Mondello By

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The person who grasps the reins as big band arranger assumes assorted artistic and aesthetic responsibilities—a "structural" engineer, a sound painter, a decision-maker, and quite importantly, a challenger and motivator. The finest purveyors of the craft, both past and present, are all well-aware of these demands. Yet, they relish the opportunity and provide the musical canvas that allows the performers to do their own magic acts. Arranger and performer —it is a symbiotic relationship of the highest creative order.

With To the Edge composer/arranger Mark Taylor and the BigBand deliver a swinging and impeccably presented classic big band effort. This is large ensemble writing and performing at a level that is as good as it gets. The writing is superb and the playing supreme. Taylor's group, with one individual's exception, is comprised of both active and retired elite military band personnel, recording here in a civilian effort. This is the creme de la creme of the military bands' best and they, under Taylor's insightful writing, play their insignia off across 13 outstanding charts.

The fare here consists of a pair of neatly re-worked GAS workhorses ("All the Things You Are," "My Funny Valentine"), two jazz classics ("Blue Monk" and "Giant Steps" -both brilliantly re-done and that are album highlights), a pair of Wayne Shorter covers ("Children of the Night" and "One by One") and six Taylor originals (of which the title tune, Kentonesque for sure, is the most unique).

Taylor's arranging and orchestration styles are classic. His charts, interesting but never over-intellectualized, are written to frame and enhance his performers, certainly not to egotistically overshadow or render their contributions insignificant. His is a style with obvious shades of Sammy Nestico and Thad Jones (both ex-military bandsmen) with a whopping dollop of Navy vet, Bill Holman's contrapuntal shenanigans tossed in for very good measure(s).

The band here is tight, driving and willing to dive into Taylor's tinkering with swinging gusto. The leader generously sprinkles solo assignments across the selections, allowing virtually every member in this high-energy aggregation to step up and stretch out. And, each is as talented and effusively creative as the next.

A last word, if you will indulge. Taylor's team stands tall and, whether in uniform or not, is indicative of the high quality of military bandsmen, who, as others do, serve with pride, honor and distinction. Thank you all for your service and for this marvelous presentation. I salute you.

Track Listing: Samba Ti Kaye; Goodbye Yellow Brick Road; Blue Monk; Love Matters the Most; All the Things You Are; Children of the Night; My Funny Valentine; To the Edge; Giant Steps; Love Beams; One by One; Another Great Day; Bone Talk.

Personnel: Marty Nau, Andy Axelrad, Tedd Baker, Grant Langford, John DeSalme, Dave Brown: saxophones/woodwinds; Brian MacDonald, Liels whitaker, chris Walker, Craig Fraedrich, Graham Breedlove: trumpets/flugelhorns; Matt Neiss, Jim McFalls, Jay Gibble, Jen Krupa, Jeff Cortazzo: trombones; Tony Nalker; piano; Jim Roberts: guitar; Paul Henry: bass; Todd Harrison: drums; Special guests: Delores King Williams: vocals; Tom Williams: flugelhorn.

Title: To the Edge | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Writegroove

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