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The JazzMn Big Band: When You're Smiling

Jack Bowers By

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The band’s name is no misprint; “JazzMn” is shorthand for Jazz Minnesota, which in turn is another name for swinging, contemporary big–band Jazz with a midwestern accent. JazzMn is actually a non–profit alliance formed in 1998 to “promote, preserve and perpetuate America’s indigenous art music, Jazz” — something the JazzMn Big Band sets about doing with remarkable proficiency and poise on its impressive debut album. Even more remarkable is the fact that When You’re Smiling was recorded in concert, leaving far less room for error than a studio date. JazzMn clears that hurdle by not making any. Neither do its several talented guest artists — legendary clarinetist Buddy DeFranco (“Invitation,” “More Than You Know”), incendiary drummer Dave Weckl and tasteful pianist Bobby Peterson (Don Piestrup’s “New Blues,” John Coltrane’s “Moment’s Notice,” Michel Legrand’s “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?”), lead trumpeter John Harner (Ray Wetzel’s “Intermission Riff”) and Pres–based tenor saxophonist Irv Williams — fresh from celebrating his 80th birthday! — on Tom Kubis’s definitive arrangement of “When You’re Smiling.” JazzMn has a number of enterprising soloists of its own including flugel Doug Snapp (showcased on “Body and Soul”); saxophonists Brian Grivna, Pete Whitman and Dave Karr; trumpeters Joe Cosgrove, Jamey Simmons and Dave Jensen; trombonist Jeff Rinear, bass trombonist Wade Clark, guitarist Dave Singley, pianist Laura Caviani, bassist Gordon Johnson and drummer Phil Hey (the last four of whom comprise a sharp and dynamic rhythm section on ten of the thirteen tracks). The choice of material is exemplary, as is the band’s singular togetherness (dig the trombones on Johnny Mandel’s “A Time for Love,” trumpets and ’bones on Kurt Weil’s “Speak Low,” saxophones and brass on “When You’re Smiling” and the ensemble as a unit everywhere else). Also worth noting is the rhythm section’s sure–handed and supportive work on “Body and Soul.” In its first attempt to fly with the more prominent big bands, JazzMn deserves applause for a wonderfully smooth takeoff.

Contact:Artegra, P.O. Box 390273, Edina, MN 55439; phone 952–941–4923. web site, www.artegra.com; e–mail sampsonwarren@artegra.org. JazzMn Big Band, P.O. Box 44724, Eden Prairie, MN 55344; web site, www.jazzmn.org

Track Listing: When You

Personnel: Dr. Douglas Snapp, artistic director; Brian Grivna, Pete Whitman, Dave Karr, Kathy Jensen, Dave Hawley, Mark Henderson, Dave Saunders, reeds; Bob Hallgrimson, Bernie Edstrom, Dave Jensen, Joe Cosgrove, Jamey Simmons, trumpets; Jeff Rinear, Dave Graf, Dean Sorenson, Wade Clark, Gerard Aliosio, Pete Enblom, Ethan Freier, Tom Matta, trombones; Laura Caviani, piano; Dave Singley, guitar; Gordon Johnson, bass; Phil Hey, drums. Guest artists

Title: When You're Smiling | Year Released: 2001 | Record Label: Artegra

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