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Samson Trinh: Very Strange Night

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File under: "What I did in my senior year". As a senior at VCU (Virginia Commonweath University), twenty-one year-old Samson Trinh completed this album for which he wrote all but one of the tunes and hired some of the best musicians from the Richmond, Virginian area, including members of his own Upper East Side Big Band. In addition to writing nine sings, he further arranged, conducted and produced this album.

Trinh's goal was to create some sort of a concept album with the physical look of the disc having a 45 RPM appearance, and with the first track, "Intro: Drop the Needle." The resulting music isn't arranged in any chronological order, nor does it single out a specific era, but the net effect is that Trinh is at least somewhat reflecting upon the musical past.

There are several vocals on the album. Terri Murphy opens the disc, with a postwar big band accompaniment by the Lounge Union Orchestra, on "To You, Hear You, With You," and later appears on "That's Why." Another lounge type vocal is provided by Adrian Duke, who also shines on Hammond B-3 organ, on "Sings Are Full of Jive." Duke is reminiscent of vocalist Jack Sheldon on the initial part of his song.

My favorite vocal on the album is a retro number sung by Jackie Frost. "Thank Goodness" might be interpreted as a country-inflected song, helped a lot by Charles Arthur's lap steel guitar, but I'm more inclined to call this "Jackie Frost sings Madeleine Peyroux sings Billie Holiday."

The remainder of the album offers instrumental opportunities for Trinh, who presents them via the Upper East Side Band and smaller ensembles. The only non-Trinh composition is the Sammy Cahn/Jule Styne song "Time After Time." While "I Can't Believe I'm Addicted to the O.C." is a mainstream presentation featuring J.C. Kuhl's tenor sax and Emily Avesian's baritone sax. "I Tried to Talk to Her, But She Thought I Was Weird" opens with a wah-wah funk beat that then ends with a post-Coltrane solo from Kuhl. Trumpeter Rex Richardson, one of the better known musicians on this date, is featured on an oddly brief "Piece For Trumpet and Piano" as well as "Time After Time," alongside altoist Mike Cemprola and pianist Adrian Duke.

The whole project plays out like some abbreviated effort (the total time is 35 minutes) and reading about the nature of how this album came to be makes one wonder if Trinh simply ran out of time and finances. Regardless, his writing and arranging, as well as his showmanship in rounding up the musicians as well as being the co-owner and booking manager of Richmond's Upper East Side Jazz Lounge, shows the promise of a second album.


Track Listing: Intro: Drop the Needle; To You, Near You, With You; I Can

Personnel: Samson Trinh: piano, conductor; Eve Debordenave: flute; Adrian Sandi, Adam Butalwicz: clarinet; Bruce Hammel: bassoon; Mike Cemprola: alto saxophone, clarinet, flute; David Hood: alto saxophone; J.C. Kuhl, Richard Wray, Jason Arce: tenor saxophone; Emily Avesian, Bruce Woodson: baritone saxophone; Bob Miller, Rex Richardson, Taylor Barnett, Mark Ingraham, Charles Gregory, Matt Wittig: trumpet; Pete Anderson, Reggie Pace, Toby Whitaker: trombone; Stefan Demetriadis, Reggie Chapman: bass trombone; Stephanie Fairbairn: tuba; Scott Burton: guitar; Charles Arthur: lap steel guitar; Malcolm Pulley: mandolin; Skip Gailes, Laura Candler-White, Daniel Clarke: piano; Jonathan Cannon, Rusty Farmer: bass; Brian Jones: drums; Mike Boyd: xylophone, chimes; Ben Anderson: washboard; Aaron Thompson: timpani, bells, drums; Molly Berg: whistling; Joe Mager: finger snaps; Susanna Klein, Stacy Markowitz: violin; Molly Sharp: viola; Neal Cary: cello; Adrian Duke: vocals, piano, organ; Jackie Frost, Terri Murphy: vocals.

Title: Very Strange Night | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Giggity Records


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