Thursday, April 1, 2010

Phil Kelly: Ballet of the Bouncing Beagles

Origin Arts
By Ric Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 4.1.10
Buy CD: Ballet of the Bouncing Beagles

It's great when a wish comes true.

I previously reviewed an album (My Museum) by Phil Kelly and the Southwest Santa Ana Winds Big Band, and expressed interest in future “Compass Wind” groups.

Well, here's another, and this ensemble is dubbed the Northwest Prevailing Winds.

Whatever. It's even better than its predecessor.

This is a truly big band of 22 musicians: four trumpets, four trombones, seven reeds and a seven-member rhythm section. Oh, and another individual is credited for “string programming,” whatever that means.

I love the titles given to the original compositions; each refers to something with which Kelly has been associated during his career. “Play Tonic Buds” is based on the harmonic structure of the old jazz standard “Just Friends,” but the original melodic line is quite different. “Limehouse Blues,” while recognizable, is done at a slower tempo than usual, which makes it sound brand-new.

The title tune — “Ballet Of The Bouncing Beagles” — relates to Kelly's pets. “Ewe Doo on Bubba's Shoux” morphed from New Orleans street-beat music, and so on.

Do be sure to read the liner notes.

The ensemble work and solos are excellent, and you'll certainly recognize many of the artists involved. This is, without question, one of the top big bands operating today.

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