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The Dan McMillion Jazz Orchestra: Up Your Brass

Jack Bowers By

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Sound the trumpets! Dan McMillion’s explosive Florida–based Jazz Orchestra is back with another colorful scrapbook of straight–ahead big–band Jazz sketched in the image of his main men, Maynard Ferguson, Buddy Rich and Woody Herman (if one must have role models he may as well choose the best). McMillion’s Maynard–like high–note trumpet, which produces sparks throughout the album, is showcased most prominently on four songs from the Ferguson library, “Spirit of St. Frederick,” “Maria,” “People” and “Gonna Fly Now” (a.k.a. “Theme from Rocky ”), Butch Evans’ swaggering “Change Up,” Matt Harris’ funky “Last Dive” and Alfred Jamester’s gospel–centered crowd–pleaser, “The Chicken.” Those are highlights but by no means the only ones. McMillion and his colleagues are similarly impressive on Shorty Rogers’ good–natured “Saturnian Sleigh Ride,” Herbie Hancock’s melodious “Dolphin Dance,” Tom Garling’s snappy “You Got It,” John Fedchock’s upbeat “Blues for Red,” Tadd Dameron’s Bop classic, “Hot House,” and last but not least, Lennon / McCartney’s “Norwegian Wood,” arranged for the Buddy Rich Orchestra by the great Bill Holman. The ensemble is solidly in the pocket, as is the orchestra’s aggressive rhythm section, ably governed by drummer Gerald Myles. While composers and arrangers are named on the tray card, soloists aren’t, so the best we can offer are educated guesses. Some, of course, are obvious — pianist Richard Drexler (who surely must be one of Florida’s best) on “Change Up,” “Dolphin Dance,” “Sleigh Ride,” “Last Dive” and the grooving introduction to “Blues for Red,” soprano Tom Dietz on “Dolphin Dance,” flutist Valerie Gillespie on “Maria,” bassist Chris Queenan on “Red,” drummer Myles on “Change Up,” he and guitarist Peter Mongaya Hagsholm on “Gonna Fly Now.” That could be trombonist Keith Oshiro (or Marius Dicpetris?) on “You Got It” and “Sleigh Ride,” and if we’re not mistaken that’s McMillion’s valve trombone on “Norwegian Wood” and his flugel on “Sleigh Ride.” Each of the tenors (Dietz, Mike McArthur) solos but we can’t say who’s who, while the alto solos are by Gillespie, Mike Gibilisco or both. Up Your Brass (don’t you just adore that classy title?) is the fourth album we’ve heard by McMillion’s well–built Jazz Orchestra, and as before, the bar is set exceedingly high — heeding the example of his celebrated mentors, McMillion wouldn’t have it any other way. Luckily, he is able to call on battle–ready troops to carry out his marching orders and record yet another well–earned triumph.

Contact: Sea Breeze Records, P.O. Box 1910, Pismo Beach, CA 93448–1910. Phone 818–489–2055.
Web site: www.seabreezejazz.com .


Track Listing: You Got It; Spirit of St. Frederick; Norwegian Wood; Maria; Change Up; Dolphin Dance; Saturnian Sleigh Ride; People; Last Dive; Blues for Red; The Chicken; Hot House; Gonna Fly Now (theme from Rocky) (69:36).

Personnel: Dan McMillion, leader, trumpet, flugelhorn, valve trombone; Chad Shoopman, John Robinson, Andy Reese, Matt White, Wayne Doughtry (2, 4), trumpet, flugelhorn; Keith Oshiro, Chris Price, Marius Dicpetris, Bob Medlin, trombone; Valerie Gillespie, alto sax, flute; Mike Gibilisco, alto sax; Mike McArthur, tenor sax; Tom Dietz, tenor, alto, soprano sax; Butch Evans, baritone sax; Richard Drexler, piano; Peter Mongaya Hagsholm (4, 11, 13), guitar; Chris Queenan, acoustic, electric bass; Gerald Myles, drums; Nemil Chabeebe (4, 11, 13), Latin percussion.

Title: Up Your Brass | Year Released: 2002 | Record Label: Sea Breeze Jazz

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