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The River City Jazz Orchestra: Young Lions and Old Cats

Jack Bowers By

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A superb second release by maestro Dean Stringer’s River City Jazz Orchestra but with a slightly misleading name. While the “cats” on its marquee may be old in terms of the years that have elapsed since their birthdate, when it comes to playing big–band Jazz with drive and enthusiasm they’re literally younger than springtime. As proof, try separating any of these “old cats” from the band’s “young lions” without comparing names to the photographs on the last page of the disc’s booklet. You won’t be able to, and that’s not merely a supposition, it’s a guarantee. These two (or more) generations of topnotch Jazz artists play as one, and the result is a big–band session that smolders, sparkles and swings in the grandest expression of its Kansas City heritage. And as we know that Dean’s reference to “old cats” was meant as a compliment, we can overlook it and proceed to the business at hand, which is to let our Jazz–loving readers (if indeed there are any) know that this is one big–band album they can’t afford to pass up, especially if they appreciate music that emulates Basie / Herman’s legendary take–no–prisoners point of view. The RCJO opens in a gentle Basie groove with Matt Catingub’s evocative “Back to Basieques,” adds a pinch of Ellington with Rich Matteson’s arrangement of “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” and bows toward Herman with Stringer’s sauntering treatment of Frank Loesser’s “Never Will I Marry.” The remarkably gifted Tom Kubis arranged “Some of These Days,” W.C. Handy’s “St. Louis Blues” and Steve Allen’s “The Bluest Blues,” and wrote and arranged “A Pretty Little Thing” (fashioned around a pretty little flugel solo by Al Pearson) and “Whispology” (featuring Bob Ousley’s soprano sax and Arch Martin’s trombone). “Georgia on My Mind” (another showcase for Ousley, this time on alto) is a Sammy Nestico chart, and last but not least, Stringer devises “A New Blues” and reels in and prepares the spicy “Soul Fish.” Trombonist Jeff Hamer solos all the way on “Bluest Blues,” Martin on “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore.” Other soloists worth noting are pianist Dave Baker, trumpeters Jay Sollenberger and Dave Simes, bass trombonist Chuck Elliott and drummer Kelly White. White, Baker and bassist Ed Billings comprise a muscular and assertive rhythm section. It has to be to keep pace with the ensemble’s wailing brass (led by Sollenberger) and fleet–fingered reeds. The KCJO’s first recording, Tongue in Groove, was splendid; this new one’s even better, thanks to the unswerving tenacity of Stringer, his eager “young lions” and crafty “old cats.”

Track listing: Back to Basieques; Don’t Get Around Much Anymore; Never Will I Marry; Some of These Days; Georgia on My Mind; A New Blues; Soul Fish; Pretty Little Thing; The Bluest Blues; Whispology; St. Louis Blues (57:19).

Personnel:

Dean Stringer, director; Randy Woy, Coker Thomas, Bob Ousley, Jim Barker, Tony DiBenedetto, saxophone, flute; Dave Simes, Al Pearson, Jay Sollenberger, Gary Richmond, Bob Harvey, Brian McDonald, trumpet, flugelhorn; Jeff Hamer, Arch Martin, Steve Dekker, Ken Clond, Lee Finch, trombone; Chuck Elliott, bass trombone; Dave Baker, piano; Ed Billings, bass; Kelly White, drums.

Contact: Dean Stringer, 9013 Cyclone Road, Lees Summit, MO 64064 (phone 816

| Record Label: Deno | Style: Big Band


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