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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Don Mather, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf, Glyn Pursglove


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LOUIE BELLSON AND HIS JAZZ ORCHESTRA

Hot

Nimbus NI 2712


1. Caravan
2. Ode to a Friend
3. The Peaceful Poet
4. Together We Rise
5. Hot
6. Hookin’ It
7. Waltzing at Denison
8. Walkin’ with Buddy

Louie Bellson - Drums
Robert Millikan, Brian O’Flaherty, Larry Lunetta, Danny Cahn, Glenn Drewes - Trumpets
Don Mikkelsen, Hale Rood, Clinton Sharman, Keith O’Quinn - Trombones
Joe Roccisano, Don Menza, Jack Stuckey, George Opalisky, Kenny Hitchcock - Saxophones
John Bunch - Piano
Jay Leonhart - Bass
Clark Terry - Flugelhorn (tracks 1, 8)

Louie Bellson definitely knows how to drive a big band along, as he proved during his tenure with the Duke Ellington Orchestra, composing and starring in such masterworks as The Hawk Talks and Skin Deep. In this album, recorded in December 1987, he again shows his prowess not only as drummer but also as composer and bandleader. Bellson wrote or co-wrote four of the eight tunes here, although they were arranged by other people. He writes tunes which are immediately memorable, and his band plays all the numbers with precise ensemble and section work.

Many of the players are unfamiliar names, although pianist John Bunch is well known and tenorist Don Menza is famous for his similar work with Buddy Rich's big band. In fact Menza takes a thrilling solo in the rather hectic Caravan, which also features Clark Terry, whose brilliance and unique sound on the flugelhorn enhance the first and last tracks. Louie Bellson also takes clean-lined drum solos on these two tracks, although he can't always get away from some of the familiar phrases he introduced into Skin Deep back in 1951.

George Young takes a high-flying soprano sax feature in his own composition Ode to a Friend, and the stratospheric trumpets are featured on Together We Rise. The title-track is a flag-waver punctuated by Bellson's precise drums. Hookin' It has an extrovert shuffle beat but the band stays silent during John Bunch's piano solo sp that it can be clearly heard. There is also room for gentler ballads like The Peaceful Poet, where Don Menza shines again.

Drummer-led bands can be overpoweringly unsubtle but this Bellson group plays with estimable clarity and care, while still managing to excite in the way that big bands really can. One suspects that the stimulating presence of Louie Bellson had a lot to do with this.

Tony Augarde

 

 

 



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