119

The Phil Norman Tentet: Wide Range

Jack Bowers By

Sign in to view read count
The Phil Norman Tentet opens its fourth album, Wide Range, with Bob Florence’s finger-busting arrangement of “Autumn Leaves,” and had it stopped on that dime, I’d have already been wrapped up and sold. But there’s more than an hour of music yet to come, all of it high-octane super premium (and unleaded), as Norman and his intrepid colleagues weave their way through road-hugging charts by Florence, Kim Richmond, Roger Neumann, Jackson Stock and Anthony Wilson and along well-paved thoroughfares mapped out by Florence, Wilson, Bobby Lyle, Billy Strayhorn, Sonny Rollins, Gerry Mulligan, Carl Saunders, Randy Weston and Johnny Richards.

In searching for adjectives to describe Norman’s tight-knit coalition of remarkably accomplished musicians, the word “fearless” leaps to mind. What other group that size would dare wrap up an album by reprising four movements from Richards’ dynamic “Cuban Fire” suite, written for the prodigious Stan Kenton Orchestra. Thanks to Richmond’s mind-blowing arranging skills and the talents of everyone involved, the suite not only shakes the rafters but burns throughout with an intensity that rivals even the original.

Richmond also scored Lyle’s sunny “Secret Island” and Strayhorn’s memorable “Lush Life,” which follow “Autumn Leaves”; while Florence arranged Weston’s happy-go-lucky “Little Niles” (great brushwork by drummer Dick Weller) and his own ethereal ballad, “Lila,” on which his piano is in the forefront. The other superlative charts are by Jackson Stock (Mulligan’s lively “Jeru,” Saunders’ powerful “Message from Morphias”), Neumann (Sonny Rollins’ buoyant “Doxy”) and Wilson (his Brazilian-influenced “Séance”). Needless to say—but we’ll say it anyway—the ensemble is sharp, limber and letter-perfect on every one of them.

As every member of the group is not only an assiduous team player but a resourceful soloist as well, there’s never a letdown in that area. Almost everyone is given at least one chance to wing it, with Florence, trumpeters Saunders and Ron Stout, trombonist Andy Martin, alto/soprano Rusty Higgins and electric guitarist Larry Koonse especially persuasive. Neumann’s gruff baritone is heard on “Lush Life” and “Doxy,” Norman’s tenor only briefly on “Lush Life.”

Their mission is made easier by the ensemble’s enterprising rhythm section, anchored by super-drummer Weller and including the fabulous foursome of Florence, Koonse, monster bassist Trey Henry and sure-handed percussionist Michito Sanchez who detonates the explosives on “Secret Island” and “Cuban Fire.” There are fleeting moments, as on “Jeru” and “Little Niles,” when the group reminds one of Mulligan’s legendary tentet from the ‘50s, but for the most part it sounds like what it is, the Phil Norman Tentet, which is plenty good enough.

One of the great things about a tentet is that it can straddle the fence between a big band and small group, thus gladdening those who appreciate either. One of the great things about the Phil Norman Tentet is that there are none better. Wide Range is a spectacular album. Reserve a place for it on your Top Ten list for 2004.

Track Listing: Autumn Leaves; Secret Island; Lush Life; Doxy; Jeru; S

Personnel: Phil Norman, leader, tenor sax; Carl Saunders, Ron Stout, trumpet, flugelhorn; Rusty Higgins, alto, soprano sax; Roger Neumann, baritone sax; Andy Martin, trombone; Bob Florence, piano; Larry Koonse, electric, acoustic guitar; Trey Henry, bass; Dick Weller, drums; Michito Sanchez, percussion.

Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: Concord Music Group | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Shop

More Articles

Read Pathways CD/LP/Track Review Pathways
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: April 30, 2017
Read Landing CD/LP/Track Review Landing
by Mark Sullivan
Published: April 30, 2017
Read Words And Music CD/LP/Track Review Words And Music
by Roger Farbey
Published: April 30, 2017
Read Faces CD/LP/Track Review Faces
by Glenn Astarita
Published: April 30, 2017
Read Nor Sea, nor Land, nor Salty Waves CD/LP/Track Review Nor Sea, nor Land, nor Salty Waves
by Duncan Heining
Published: April 30, 2017
Read Petite Afrique CD/LP/Track Review Petite Afrique
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 29, 2017
Read "Revelation" CD/LP/Track Review Revelation
by Jack Bowers
Published: August 16, 2016
Read "La Diversité" CD/LP/Track Review La Diversité
by Roger Farbey
Published: January 31, 2017
Read "Starer" CD/LP/Track Review Starer
by Glenn Astarita
Published: July 26, 2016
Read "A Missing Shade of Blue" CD/LP/Track Review A Missing Shade of Blue
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: July 22, 2016
Read "Lionsong" CD/LP/Track Review Lionsong
by David A. Orthmann
Published: April 18, 2017
Read "Standard Blue" CD/LP/Track Review Standard Blue
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 7, 2017

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM RECORDS | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!