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THE VANGUARD
JAZZ ORCHESTRA

Over Time
Music of Bob Brookmeyer

Planet Arts 101413

 

 

1. The Big Time

Suite for Three

2. Oatts

3. Scott

4. Rich

5. XYZ

6. Skylark

7. At the Corner of Ralph and Gary

8. Sad Song

Nick Marchione, Tanya Darby, Terell Stafford, Scott Wendholt -Trumpets and flugelhorns

John Mosca, Luis Bonilla - Trombones

Jason Jackson -Tenor and bass trombone

Douglas Purviance - Bass trombone

Dick Oatts, Billy Drewes - Alto saxes, soprano saxes and flutes

Rich Perry -Tenor sax and flute

Ralph Lalama - Tenor sax, flute and clarinet

Gary Smulyan - Baritone sax

Jim McNeely - Piano

David Wong - Bass

John Riley - Drums

Frank Basile - Bass clarinet (tracks 3,5 and 8)

David Peel - French Horn (tracks 1,5,6 and 8)

Mike Truesdell - Percussion ( tracks 1,5 and 8)

The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra has an impressive pedigree, having grown out of the legendary Thad Jones-Mel Lewis orchestra of the 60s and 70s, and is the regular band that performs every Monday night at the famous Village Vanguard in New York. Several of its CDs have been nominated for Grammy awards with two of them winning the big band award. This CD is their tribute to the late Bob Brookmeyer whose arrangements have long been an important part of the band's repertoire. The band has had few personnel changes over the years and the advantage of this is evident in the superb ensemble playing throughout this CD. All the compositions, except Skylark, are by Brookmeyer.

The Big Time, one of three pieces on the CD that Brookmeyer wrote for Mel Lewis but were never recorded, features the band in full cry from the start with brief solo bursts breaking through complex brass and woodwind patterns. Suite for Three was written by Brookmeyer to feature individual members of the band. First, veteran altoist Dick Oatts weaves dexterously in and out of powerful broken rhythms; Scott has Wendholt on flugelhorn in calm and reflective mood and Rich is a straight-ahead swinger for tenorist Perry.

XYZ, at fourteen minutes the longest track, is a sequel to an earlier composition called ABC Blues and is a complex, occasionally dissonant piece with constantly shifting rhythms. Soloists featured include pianist Jim McNeely, now the band's composer-in-residence, and trombonist John Mosca, the band's director. Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer's Skylark could hardly be a greater contrast with its spare piano intro leading into a luscious exploration of the well-loved melody by Dick Oatts.

At the Corner of Ralph and Gary continues the Ellingtonian practice of writing for specific soloists, this time tenor saxist Ralph Lalama and baritone saxist Gary Smulyan who swap phrases against a background of ensemble riffs. Sad Song, with its mystic, folksy Eastern European feel, is another feature for the impressive Dick Oatts, this time on flute. It's a quiet, haunting piece, showing the full range of Brookmeyer's remarkable writing talents.

This is an outstanding CD by a very classy big band - more Grammies to follow?

George Stacy



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