Thursday, March 15, 2007

Taylor/Fidyk Big Band: Live at Blues Alley

OA2 Records
By Ric Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 3.15.07
Buy CD: Live at Blues Alley

You probably aren't familiar with either Mark Taylor or Steve Fidyk, but you'll want to be after listening to this wonderful release. 

Taylor is a composer/ arranger who got his start doing charts for the Stan Kenton orchestra; Fidyk is a percussionist who has played in many of the great jazz groups and in back-up bands for innumerable vocal artists. They met while both were members of the Army Blues, a well known military band. 

This CD, only their second release, was done live at Blues Alley in Washington, D.C. 

The group is a standard big band: five saxes, four trumpets, four trombones and a rhythm section consisting of piano, bass and drums. All but one of the tracks were arranged by Taylor; Fidyk did the arrangement of "When Johnny Comes Marching Home." 

The result: This band really swings. It's like a visit to the past, resurrecting memories of Woody Herman, Duke Ellington, Count Basie and others of that genre. 

"Full Count" is typical of the up-tempo openers with which those bands would begin a concert; the second tune in the set, "Maiden Voyage," is a real burner that lets the audience know what to expect. "Bradley's Bop House," a groovy mid-tempo tune, demonstrates how a great rhythm section can drive a band and its featured trumpet and tenor sax soloists. 

"My One And Only Love" is the first of five old standards; this one's a great arrangement for dancers. The "close dancing" crowd will appreciate the samba treatment given "What'll I Do," which has beautiful trumpet and piano solos. 

As for "When Johnny Comes Marching Home," I've never heard it played like this ... and I love it! 

I've also never heard a version of "Anthropology" played at a (relatively) slow tempo. This version will make you even more impressed with this great bop standard. 

Taylor was collaborating with drummer Louie Bellson when he composed "Brush Taps." It's reminiscent of Neal Hefti's "Cute," and demonstrates the groove created when a drummer uses brushes instead of sticks. 

"My Cherie Amour" is done as a jazz waltz: wonderful for both listening and dancing. Finally, the set closes with "The Gorillaman Blues," a real rocker in my favorite jazz format. The ensemble and solo work on this track are fantastic, and you won't be able to keep your feet still. 

This is a great group, and I look forward to future CDs.

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