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The H2 Big Band: You're It!

Edward Blanco By

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For those who can enjoy and fully appreciate the pulsating sounds of contemporary big bands, You're It! is a powerful musical encounter not to be missed. Led by two educators from the University of Denver's Lamont School of Music—renowned trumpeter Alan Hood and co-leader, pianist Dave Hanson—have assembled a seventeen-piece ensemble including some of Denver's finest, just for this recording. The H2 Big Band, named from the first letter of both co-leaders' surnames, can surely be considered a muscle-type orchestra, as the music clearly bears out.

A special feature of the band is its out-of-towners, who contribute mightily and include baritone saxophonist Glenn Kostur, and trumpeters Bobby Shew, Jason Carder and Mike Rodriguez. Hanson—whose specialty is composing and arranging for big bands—contributes the majority of the charts. There's plenty of swing and electricity drawn from selected cover tunes like Cy Coleman's roaring "Big Spender." The arrangement of Arthur Freed's immortal "Singing In The Rain" is another example, and features a tight alto solo from Rich Chiaraluce.

Opening the album with an immediate impression, Hanson chose "Blue Brews"—a special, as he puts it, "super-articulated minor blues over a heavy shuffle groove," that kicks the music off in high gear. The title piece follows with co-leader Hood sharing the space with Shew, both blowing hard and heavy on another rousing burner. "BMG," short for "Be My Guide," is a fast blues piece that takes no prisoners, with energy provided by Shew and Texas tenor Bob Rebholz. Named after one of Hanson's arranging heroes, Claus Ogerman, "For Claus" is one of the more subdued tracks, with the band entering calmly.

The music takes a cushy turn on Miles Davis' "Blue In Green" as the band shows a glimpse of its softer side with tender moments provided by Brad Goode's Davis-like, muted horn solo, with tenor saxophonist Peter Sommer delivering the other highlight on this semi-ballad. The leaders collaborate on two of the last tunes with Hanson writing and Hood blowing on "Al's Well" and "Romanza."

The big band heat and swing come to a dynamite conclusion, with Hanson's extended arrangement of Clifford Brown's's signature, "Joy Spring." The entire horn section takes turns delivering individual solos and has thirteen-and-a-half minutes to do so. A clever album of audacious music standing in quite contrast to those who have predicted the death of big band music, You're It! thunders through eleven fine charts performed by one of the best big band you've never heard. Hood and Hanson deliver a large ensemble set with power and awe—just the kind of material lovers of big band music will devour.

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