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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, James Poore, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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The JEFF BENEDICT
BIG BIG BAND

Holmes

TAPESTRY 76025-2

 

 

1. Come On In!

2. Bitter Jug

3. Seven Days

4. Holmes

5. Easy Living

6. Jaco

7. Young and Fine

8. Caravan

9. Delta City Blues

10. Castle Creek Shuffle

11. Naima


The Jeff Benedict Big Big Band

Recorded 2015 [70:46]


This tight LA-based band – not just ‘Big’ but ‘Big Big’ - calls on colleagues and confreres of Jeff Benedict, some from years back. Sectional discipline is superbly secure but the well drilled, quick readers lack for little when it comes to the ability to solo at length. Bitter Jug is based on Jitterbug Waltz, but it’s taken in newer, though still straight-ahead directions in this finely swinging performance. Seven Days is unusual repertoire but enlivened by a cannily nimble guitar solo from Dave Askren where the band offers fine orchestral backing figures and where Jeff Ellwood takes his sax up high. Holmes is a quixotic theme, almost comedic – it’s named after the bandleader’s father – and with an appealing Latin tinge, relished by trumpeter Tom Tallman, who sounds almost Clark Terry-like in his solo.

Easy Living segues from a slow blues into a ballad, graced by an effective Paul McKee trombone solo and a stop chorus alto solo from Benedict himself – plenty of good dynamics and just a few hints that he has absorbed Johnny Hodges’ message. The tribute to Pat Metheny on Jaco features the nimble-voiced baritone of Charlie Richard and the Benedict is on soprano here. Juan Tizol’s Caravan receives one of the more searing and contemporary of these readings with a compellingly urgent tenor solo from Ellwood that takes him to the limits of strangulation. It’s an unusually intense moment, given the predominantly level-headed approach adopted elsewhere. The droll Michael Brecker number, Delta City Blues, features little consort games, counter-themes, and plenty of loping fun, from which Ellwood’s tenor emerges to take a distinctively good solo. There’s an opportunity for drummer Paul Romaine to parade his wares as well. This track lasts eight minutes by the way, not the advertised six. In fact there are a couple of mis-timings in the track listings, but I’d prefer to concentrate on the straight-ahead swing of Castle Creek Shuffle, a Benedict original.

This is certainly a strongly drilled band, with extremely high technical standards. The soloists are personable without ever truly evincing real individuality, but there’s plenty of colour and vivacity in this west coast outfit.

Jonathan Woolf



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