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And now, as John Cleese used to announce on the BBC’s Monty Python comedy series, for something completely different. Well, perhaps not completely, but at least different enough to arouse one’s curiosity and engage his/her attention. Clare Fischer, best known for his Latin–leaning compositions and arrangements for groups of various sizes both foreign and domestic, ventures into a new and substantially uncharted realm with his Jazz Corps, a full–blown marching band complete with bugles, French horns and half a dozen clarinets cleverly disguised to resemble an orthodox Jazz ensemble. Thanks to Fischer’s superior arranging skills, the disguise is seldom less than convincing. The charts are for the most part deep and Holmanesque, and while they usually swing, they do so prudently and without the explosive impact of most conformably arrayed ensembles. “Cherokee” opens in customary marching–band style before proceeding to a Jazzier groove with bright solos by Shelton on clarinet, Huffsteter on mellophone bugle, Harrington on tenor sax and Saunders on trumpet. On this number and “Fuzz Blues,” Fischer overdubs the 20 brass and six clarinets to produce a band with 40 brass and a dozen woodwinds. On “Konitz’s Lover Man,” whose melody, played by four alto saxophones and one tenor, is based on a transcription made by Fischer in 1953 of Konitz’s solo, he overdubs again to form a section consisting of eight altos and two tenors. While ponderous, the weight of these variations is never enough to scuttle the enterprise. The somber “Corcovado Fúnebre” came to Fischer in a dream following the death in 1994 of Antonio Carlos Jobim; “The Herd Moves On,” whose bass–heavy opening passage represents the lumbering movement of elephants, was inspired by a televison documentary about their threatened extinction; “Hey James” is a high–stepping tribute to bandleader Jimmie Lunceford (on which Shelton sparkles again, this time on alto); and “Neophonic Piece,” composed some 30 years ago, was written for but never used by Stan Kenton's neophonic orchestra. Other soloists of note include Gary Foster (alto sax, alto clarinet), Andy Martin (marching trombone) and Fischer himself at the piano. This is a colorful, off-the-beaten-path performance that should enhance the image of marching bands while giving big-band Jazz enthusiasts abundant pleasure.
Clare Fischer, leader, composer, arranger, keyboards; Charlie Davis, lead trumpet; Carl Saunders, trumpet; Lee Thornberg, Scott Wright, soprano bugle; Mitch Mocilnikar, Dave Martin, alto bugle; Steve Huffsteter, Mike Sullivan, Larry Hall, mellophone bugle; Les Benedict, Eb flugelhorn, Eb cornet, helicon tuba; David Duke, Stephanie Furry, Suzette Moriarty, Paul Loredo, French horn; Andy Martin, Dick Hamilton, marching trombone; Alex Iles, Morris Repass, marching baritone; Wendell Kelly, baritone bugle; Rod Matthews, contrabass bugle; Dave Carpenter, electric bass; Steve Schaeffer, drums; Brent Fischer, percussion; Don Shelton, soprano, alto saxes, clarinet; Sam Karam, alto, tenor saxes, clarinet; Gary Foster, alto sax, alto clarinet, clarinet; Terry Harrington, tenor sax, clarinet; Lee Callet, alto, baritone saxes, bass clarinet; Bob Carr, soprano, bass saxes, contrabass clarinet.
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