Saturday, August 30, 2014

John LaBarbera Big Band: Caravan

Jazz Compass
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Caravan

Thank goodness for musicians like John La Barbera ... and the rest of the La Barbera family! When I simply must get another “big band fix,” artists such as La Barbera get the same urge and produce an album like this one.

Let it be shouted from the rooftops: This is a “for real” big band. 

The five-man reed section comprises Brian Scanlon, on alto sax and flute; Pat La Barbera, on tenor and soprano sax; Rob Lockhart, on tenor sax and flute; Kim Richmond, on alto sax; and Bob Carr, on baritone sax and bass clarinet. The brass section features trumpeters Wayne Bergeron, Bob O’Donnell, Willie Murillo and Clay Jenkins; trombonists Les Benedict, Eric Hughes, Ryan Dragon and Ken Kugler (the latter on bass trombone); and a rhythm section of keyboard artist Bill Cunliffe, bassist Tom Warrington, drummer Joe La Barbera, and percussionist Aaron Serfaty. John La Barbera is the leader, arranger and composer, and three of the nine tunes on this menu are his.

The title song is a well-known Juan Tizol/Duke Ellington standard, as are Kenny Barron’s “Voyage” and McCoy Tyner’s “Atlantis.” All the charts swing wonderfully, and the solo work is generous and excellent.

It wasn’t even necessary to close my eyes, to make it feel like I had time-traveled back to the best of those great years, when this kind of ensemble jazz ruled the land.

Producing this kind of music merely (!) requires a blend of some well-known artists — the La Barberas, Clay Jenkins, Bill Cunliffe and Tom Warrington — and a generous helping of the myriad lesser-known, but equally talented artists who frequent the music-oriented schools and studios that are prevalent in cities such as Los Angeles and New York. The result is almost always great jazz. 

We don’t currently get as much of this large ensemble jazz as once was the case, but this album sure will do until the next big band era comes along. It’s mandatory that we support such music for now, so that it’ll survive until the next coming!

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