Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Joe Clark Big Band: Lush

Jazzed Media
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Lush

Without musicians such as trumpeter/composer/arranger Joe Clark and drummer/composer/arranger Jeff Hamilton, we wouldn’t be treated to big band jazz very often. Thankfully, every once in awhile, the likes of Clark and Hamilton get an urge to revisit the days when those wonderful “large groups” ruled the roost in the world of music. 

Clark and Hamilton took the effort to create the arrangements, obtain the necessary financial backing, and gather the musicians to rehearse and produce albums like the subject of this review. Sometimes bands like this actually play a concert or two, but often the album created during the recording session is the sole result of all of the effort involved. What a shame!

Lush is such an endeavor, and it’s a winner. This is truly a big band: five reeds, five trumpets and flugelhorns, four trombones including a bass instrument, and a rhythm section with piano, guitar, bass and drums. The drummer is Hamilton himself: simply one of the best at his instrument. The fact that this group never had performed together, before the first rehearsal, is proof of their excellence as musicians.

The tunes on the menu include five standards — “Lush Life,” “Well, You Needn’t,” “Tenderly,” “Yesterday’s Gardenias” and “Samba de Martelo” — and three originals specifically created this album. Many members of this august group are featured soloists in various tracks, and each is excellent.

As you absorb this performance, you’ll note that it does come across as a concert effort; yes, it definitely swings, but the excitement generated by live bands — say, those fronted by Woody Herman, Lionel Hampton or Don Ellis — is missing. Be that as it may, these guys are outstanding. Let’s hope that they, and others like them, continue to produce this kind of music.

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