Sunday, May 6, 2012

Tommy Igoe and the Birdland Big Band: Eleven

Deep Rhythm Music
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Eleven

Tommy Igoe has been a drummer since he was 2 years old. It helped that his father also was a drummer — who played with Benny Goodman and Woody Herman — and Tommy was fortunate to have been born and raised in New Jersey. For musical purposes, that’s essentially a suburb of New York City, which everyone knows is the capital of the jazz world. True, Igoe studied classical and jazz piano for 15 years, but that was just an adjunct to his love for the percussion instruments.

By age 18, he was playing with the Glenn Miller Orchestra; in 1986, he was a member of the Blood, Sweat and Tears touring band. Igoe also worked for Stanley Jordan, Art Garfunkel and Dave Grusin, and in ’97 was asked to help create the drum set “book” for the Broadway production of The Lion King. A significant part of his career is dedicated to teaching, and he has written numerous instruction books — and released DVDs — that deal with drumming.

His newest project is the Birdland Big Band, which has a weekly gig at New York’s Birdland jazz club. That unit, featured on this CD, is a big band in every sense of the word; the cadre includes five trumpets, three trombones, five reeds and a rhythm section of piano, bass and drums (the latter role filled by Igoe, of course). Three additional guests appear: a harmonica player, another pianist and an additional percussionist. 

This album’s title, Eleven, relates to the number of tracks. Four were written by icons Chick Corea (“Armonda’s Rhumba” and “Got a Match”), Michael Brecker (“Spherical”) and Herbie Hancock (“Butterfly”); the rest come from lesser known — but equally talented — jazz composers. It goes without saying that personnel from the Big Apple’s huge jazz population are willing to stand in line to be a part of this organization.

A number of descriptive terms come to mind when listening to this album: swinging is one; precise is another. I’d expect nothing less; you’re hearing the cream that rises to the top of New York’s jazz artists. Everyone clearly is having a ball, and so will you.

A side note: After his years on the East Coast, Igoe has relocated his family to San Francisco. Jazz fans will love him there, as well.

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