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Blue Wisp Big Band: Tribute

Edward Blanco By

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A legendary regional ensemble from Cincinnati, the Blue Wisp Big Band has, for the last twenty-five years, performed every Wednesday evening at the famed Blue Wisp Jazz Club in Cincinnati, owned and operated by Marjean Wisby until her passing in August 2006. The album pays Tribute to the memory of the late owner and also celebrates the music of jazz giants, among them Horace Silver, Freddie Hubbard, Joe Henderson and Billy Strayhorn.

Having been around for a quarter of a century this big band knows how to play and does so with the same fire that has led them to record five acclaimed albums over the years. The musicians are seasoned pros with twelve of the sixteen players being original members.

Recorded live at its new location on East 8th Street in downtown Cincinnati, these old timers, who can obviously still play, crank out eleven swinging tunes and seem to have a blast doing so.

Paying homage to some jazz legends, the band performs two Silver compositions with "Strollin' and "Silver's Serenade, the Henderson chart "Step Lightly, Strayhorn's "Daydream, and Hubbard's "Little Sunflower.

British composer/arranger Frank Griffith contributes two blue chip charts with "Holland Park, and "Ricochet, while Cincinnati pianist Phil DeGreg includes another original, "Urgency. Special arrangements were provided by band members, trombonist Paul Piller, saxophonist Larry Dickson and New York arranger Alan Foust.

The music is lively and buoyant, including a slew of sturdy solos from various players. The music bolts out of the gate with the energetic opener "Sweet Georgia Brown and rumbles through the set in brassy fashion, continuing with Silver's "Strollin' and ending with George Gershwin's "Soon, showcasing arranger Piller on the bones and Herb Aronoff on tenor.

Other dazzling solos on this album come from pianist Steve Schmidt, trumpeter Al Nori, alto saxophonists Jim Sherrick and Mike Andres, baritone saxophonist Larry Dickson, tenor saxophonist Joe Gaudio, bassist Michael Sharfe and drummer John Von Ohlen.

This is the kind of big band music that aficionados of the genre can appreciate and love to hear often. Tribute demonstrates just why the Blue Wisp Big Band is still around and producing some of the finest orchestrations you'll hear anywhere.

Containing world-class horn players and bolstered by a superlative rhythm section, this group has established a reputation that extends far beyond Cincinnati and will hopefully keep them playing for years to come.

Track Listing: Sweet Georgia Brown; Strollin'; Holland Park; The Heather On The Hill; Step Lightly; Urgency; Silver's Serenade; Daydream; Ricochet; Little Sunflower; Soon.

Personnel: Mike Andres: alto and soprano saxophone; Jim Sherrick: alto saxophone; Herb Aronoff: tenor saxophone; Joe Gaudio: tenor saxophone; Larry Dickson: baritone saxophone; Jeff Folkens: trumpet, Kevin Moore: trumpet; Hank Mautner: trumpet; Al Nori: trumpet; Paul Piller: trombone; Clarence Pawn: trombone: Jeff Owen: trombone; Gary Langhorst: bass trombone; Steve Schmidt: piano; Michael Sharfe: bass; John Von Ohlen: drums.

Title: Tribute | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Sea Breeze Jazz


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