Thursday, May 6, 2010

Dan McMillion Jazz Orchestra: Nice 'n' Juicy

Sea Breeze Jazz
By Ric Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 5.6.10
Buy CD: Nice n' Juicy

Jazz fans who date back to the 1960s and '70s probably are familiar with Maynard Ferguson, one of the stratospheric trumpeters from that time period.

If you liked him, you'll love Dan McMillion.

McMillion is essentially a clone of Ferguson: Both play trumpet, flugelhorn and valve trombone; both had experience with great bands of the day (the former with Stan Kenton, the latter with Woody Herman and Buddy Rich); and both led big bands of their own.

Finally — fortunately! — each produced some great albums.

Brass players know that it's difficult to play both the trumpet and trombone; one must possess a “freak lip,” because of the difference in the size of the mouthpieces. And even those who can switch from one instrument to the other find it quite difficult to reach the extreme high registers; it's even harder to play each note cleanly, and produce clear melodic lines.

Ferguson had that ability, and so does McMillion. As the saying goes, they and their exciting bands can “blow the hair off your head.”

This album reprises some of the tunes for which Ferguson was known during his career, many of them quite popular during that period: “MacArthur Park,” “Hey, Jude,” “Love for Sale” and “Lush Life,” among others.

That said, McMillion's decision to repeat so much of the stuff Ferguson did is unfortunate. McMillion's band is so great that he should soft-pedal the “homage” covers and concentrate more on original stuff.

Even so, this is a solid example of what the best big band jazz sounded like.

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