Uh Oh! is the third recording by multi-instrumentalist Lou Caputo's Not So Big Band, which has been performing in New York City for more than a decade. The band's name epitomizes its relatively spare front line: two trumpets, three saxophones, trombone and tuba. There is, on the other hand, nothing spare about the band's ability to sound like a credibly larger ensemble, nor its propensity to swing through a dozen well-framed charts based for the most part on jazz compositions by Wayne Shorter, Don Elliott, Leo Wright, Jack DeJohnette, Oliver Nelson, Chick Corea, Tadd Dameron, Dexter Gordon and Mary Lou Williams, not to mention the band's own erudite bassist, Bill Crow.
The reed section's diminutive size is offset in some measure by the fact that Caputo plays soprano, alto and baritone sax as well as flute (but none simultaneously). His partners in that section are alto Geoffrey Burke (who doubles on flute) and tenor Virginia Mayhew. The rhythm section, for its part, is bolstered by the presence of percussionists Leopoldo F. Fleming and Warren Smith (who doubles on vibraphone) and Latin Grammy-winning conguero Eddie Montalvo. The two trumpets (John Eckert, Dave Smith) are steadfast, as is trombonist Jason Ingram, while Dale Turk's rumbling tuba adds depth to the front line.
The best-known themes on the playbill are Shorter's "Black Nile," Nelson's "Stolen Moments," Dameron's "If You Could See Me Now" and Gordon's "Fried Bananas" (a.k.a. "How About You"). DeJohnette's Caribbean-flavored "Festival," Lynn Welshman's emphatic "Ape and Essence" and Mary Lou Williams' swing-centered "Busy, Busy, Busy" are among the more pleasant surprises. The quirky title song is Mike Carubia's arrangement of a popular tune from 1959 by the Nutty Squirrels. Caputo, as one would expect, is featured throughout, on baritone, soprano, alto and flute, and his solos are always worth hearing, as are those by Mayhew, the Smiths (David and Warren), Eckert, Burke, Crow, pianist Don Stein and guitarist Joel Perry.
This is a plucky Not So Big ensemble playing straight-ahead music that swings. Nothing wrong with that. And if that's the kind of music you prefer, you could do a lot worse than Caputo's trim and hard-working group.
Black Nile; Los Cielos de Ayer; Uh Oh!; Midnight in Berlin; Festival; Stolen Moments; News from Blueport; Guijira; Ape and Essence; If You Could See Me Now; Fried Bananas; Busy, Busy, Busy.
Lou Caputo: leader, alto, baritone, soprano saxophone, flute; John Eckert: trumpet, flugelhorn; Dave Smith: trumpet, flugelhorn; Geoffrey Burke: alto sax, flute; Virginia Mayhew: tenor sax; Jason Ingram: trombone; Dale Turk: tuba; Don Stein: piano; Joel Perry: guitar; Bill Crow: bass; Rudy Petschauer: drums (1, 2, 6-8); Mike Campenni: drums (3-5, 9-12); Warren Smith: vibraphone, percussion; Eddie Montalvo: conga; Leopoldo Fleming: percussion.