CD Review: The Pete McGuinness Jazz Orchestra - Strength In Numbers

The Pete McGuinness Jazz Orchestra - Strength In Numbers
Summit Records DCD 627. CD Review by Frank Griffith)

Strength In Numbers, indeed, as this Connecticut born, NYC-based trombonist/arranger's second big band CD shines on many levels. Pete McGuinness nods to the late Bob Brookmeyer, as well as other jazz icons (Thad Jones and Chet Baker) are evident while never overshadowing his well formed individual voice as a writer, trombonist and singer.

His wise combination of largely originals with three carefully chosen standards make for a delectable collection that joins together seamlessly. The crack NYC band sparkles throughout, boasting a fleet of inspired and virtousic soloists coupled with exemplary ensemble prowess. They negotiate through the leader's challenging, yet highly rewarding charts with unfettered aplomb.

Standout soloists, to name a few include veteran trumpeter, Chris Rogers whose lyrical harmon muted heartfelt melodies score highly on "Spellbound". Fans of the 1970s movie, "Fame" might remember Chris's bit part in that film as a student who suddenly could not resist the urge to dance atop a cafeteria table during lunch. Tenor saxist, Tom Christensen's beefy but clear toned sinewy excursions also prevail on the opening track "The Send Off". This was a tribute piece to Brookmeyer who had a significant influence on McGuinness having studied with the great man as a member of the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop in the late 1980s. Not to be outdone, the spirited yet perplexing trombone tradings of Mark Patterson and Matt Havilland followed by the emotive and melliflous offerings of Bill Mobley's trumpet help make the leader's "Nasty Blues" anything but. Finally, would someone please confiscate the alto sax from Dave Pietro's hands as he completely mops the floor with his blinding solo on "Nasty" as well.

In addition to his passionately played trombone feature on "Trixie's Little Girl" (dedicated to his late mother, Anne) Pete's vocals glow on two standards, "What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life" and "You Don't Know What Love Is". Free of vibrato or affectations, his clear and winningly light textured vocal quality delivers the goods with a subtle intensity. This fine singing is complemented grandly by his embracing ensemble treatments of these classic songs.

Numbering the strengths of this quality recording would be a job indeed as they are countless. A truly inspired and brilliant addition to the modern big band sound while incorporating the traditions that built it. A stellar effort.

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