Samson Trinh is a composer/arranger/orchestrator / bandleader/musical director/producer/saxophonist with degrees from Virginia Commonwealth University and the Manhattan School of Music (where he studied composition with pianist Mike Abene). He was the 2005 winner of the Richmond Jazz Society's Joe Kennedy Jr. Scholarship and has composed for and performed with such luminaries as Al Jarreau, Mulgrew Miller, Nellie McKay, Desiree Roots and others. He's the founder/director of the seventeen-piece Upper East Side Big Band and was co-owner and booking manager from 2003-05 of the Upper East Side Lounge in Richmond, Virginia. And he's only 23 years old. No wonder he's called Samson.
The one thing Trinh hasn't learned (but probably will) is that one should always include more than 35 minutes of music on a CD if he wishes to earn a complimentary review. Be that is it may, the music that is presented is certainly interesting, even though its jazz components are often peripheral. Trinh wrote the music and lyrics for every number save the standard "Time After Time, which he orchestrated for the Upper East Side ensemble. The vocalstwo by Terri Murphy, one each by Adrian Duke and Jackie Frostare no better than ordinary, with a country/Hawaiian veneer on Frost's "Thank Goodness and nice work at the Hammond B-3 by Duke on "Signs Are Full of Jive. The lyrics are printed in the booklet, but that's not much help, as they are by and large inscrutable.
Trumpeter Rex Richardson, one of Chicago's finest, and pianist Laura Candler-White are paired on the curious "Piece for Trumpet and Piano, which runs for all of 25 seconds. The Upper East Side band is also featured on "Very Strange Night (with Richardson on trumpet?) and "Jive, the Lounge Union Orchestra (backing Murphy's vocal) on "To You, Near You, With You.
In the end, it's hard to know what to make of this "very strange mixture. Trinh is obviously an able musician, but one who seems not to have found an explicit point of view. There are some pleasant moments in this Strange Night, but not enough to assuage the listener until daybreak. And one mustn't overlook the album's modest 35 minute playing time.
Track Listing: Intro: Drop the Needle; To You, Near You, With You; I Can
Personnel: Samson Trinh: composer, arranger, conductor. Lounge Rhythm Orchestra--Bob Miller, Matt Wittig: trumpet; Eve Debordenave: flute; Adrian Sandi: clarinet; Adam Butalawicz: clarinet; Bruce Hammel: bassoon; Toby Whitaker: trombone; Reggie Chapman: bass trombone; Skip Gailes: piano; Scott Burton: guitar; Rusty Farmer: bass; Brian Jones: drums; Susanna Klein: violin; Stacy Markowitz: violin; Molly Sharp: viola; Neal Cary: cello; Mike Boyd: xylophone, chimes; Aaron Thompson: tympani, bells; Molly Berg: whistler; Joe Mager: finger snaps; Samson Trinh: finger snaps, piano intro, suspended cymbal. Upper East Side Band--Bob Miller: trumpet; Rex Richardson: trumpet; Taylor Barnett: trumpet; Mark Ingraham: trumpet; Charles Gregory: trumpet; Mike Cemprola: alto sax, clarinet; David Hood: alto sax, tenor sax; Richard Wray: tenor sax; Jason Arce: tenor sax; J.C Kuhl: tenor sax; Bruce Woodson: baritone sax; Emily Avesian: baritone sax; Pete Anderson: trombone; Toby Whitaker: trombone; Reggie Pace: trombone; Reggie Chapman: bass trombone; Stefan Demetriadis: bass trombone; Adrian Duke: piano, vocals, Hammon B3 organ; Scott Burton: guitar; Rusty Farmer: bass; Jonathan Cannon: bass; Aaron Thompson: drums; Brian Jones: drums; Stephanie Fairbairn: tuba; Ben Anderson: washboard; Scott Burton: people shouting; Shawn Jones: people shouting; Lance Koehler: people shouting; Brandon Mitchell: people shouting; Samson Trinh: people shouting. Other tracks: Bob Miller: trumpet; Charles Gregory: trumpet; J.C. Kuhl: tenor sax; Emily Avesian: baritone sax; Daniel Clarke: piano, Wurlitzer organ; Laura Candler-White: piano; Jonathan Cannon: bass; Brian Jones: drums; Terri Murphy: vocals.