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Eternal Licks & Grooves by Bob Florence Limited Edition

April 2007 - Bob Florence is like an on-call surgeon who is regularly paged to resuscitate the big band sound. With his long-time unit Limited Edition, he keeps the notes on the page beating until the last bar. Eternal Licks & Grooves is Florence’s sixth release for MAMA Records and the first under MAMA’s new alliance with Summit Records (MAMA had halted production in the late ‘90’s.)

The title tune (commissioned by ASCAP and the non-profit jazz education organization IAJE to honor pianist and bandleader Count Basie) is the longest of the seven pieces on the release (14:02). In 4/4 time, it ticks off furtively with Florence hammering out a pulsating rhythm at the lower end of the keyboard and bassist Trey Henry plunking in. They’re joined by drummer Peter Erskine sizzling on cymbals and trombonist Charlie Loper playing a fractured fraction of a melody. The texture is thickened by the chugging bellow of tenor saxophones and trombones that builds into this taut ball of synergy. After Florence breaks in with a quarter note riff, the ensemble unwinds for a second, only to coil up again until guitarist Larry Koonse eases in and relieves the tension. By now, the Count’s "One O’Clock Jump" is in full sighting. Florence bridges each solo - by muted trombonist Scott Whitfield, tenor saxophonist Tom Peterson, Erskine and trumpeter Larry Lunnetta - without disrupting the pace. He makes it seem so easy to cool down the ensemble from a blistering run. Like Basie, Florence is always wearing the conductor’s hat in the front of the train.

From the liner notes of Florence’s 1993 Funupsmanship, he said that in arranging a standard "I try to treat it as if I had just written it. That way I have the freedom to change the song any way I want and make it my own." Achille-Claude Debussy’s "Claire de Lune", which has been used in this decade’s films Ocean’s Eleven and Man on Fire, is initially treated with poignancy. But the group shifts the mood with a mid-section widening girth of sound and upped tempo. Carl Saunders flutters majestically on trumpet. Right next to "Claire de Lune" and of equal beauty is Florence’s "Mirror Images". His piano playing is deceptively plaintive over the rugged chord landscape that he’s charted for himself and Limited Edition. The ensemble’s distinguishing sound comes from the woodwind section, particularly the clarinets. All the woodwind players double on some sort of clarinet and in this piece, the playing makes the tune very buoyant. Don Shelton rides upon this with a curly soprano saxophone solo.

Where pianist Kenny Barron ratchets up the tempo on Bronislav(w) Kaper’s 1952 composition "Invitation" on his 1990 Criss Cross Records release of the same name, Florence steps into the shadows of the tune and ponders its melancholia. Jeff Driskill’s tenor solo is parched but still vibrant. The dourness is wiped clear by the ensemble’s stampede, inventively written by Florence. Trumpeter Steve Huffsteter takes a solo above the rush while Henry’s woody and weighty bass solo momentarily simmers down things. Like the title tune, "Appearing in Cleveland" is a commissioned composition, this time honoring bandleader Stan Kenton. Florence incorporates spirit as well as "thematic motifs" from his subject and expounds upon it. To admirers, Florence’s fifty year creative process is a testament to craftsmanship and care.

Florence knows, like Basie knew, the cats in his clowder. In an article from Jazz Journal International, Florence calls his band the Limited Edition "as a reference to the kind of player in the band. For me it is the kind of musician you just don't see too often - hard to find and not produced in great numbers." After almost thirty years of The Bob Florence Limited Edition, it would be accurate to say that familiarity breeds brilliance.

copyright@2007 Cheryl K. Symister-Masterson This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Bob Florence Limited Edition
  • CD Title: Eternal Licks & Grooves
  • Genre: Big Band / Swing
  • Year Released: 2007
  • Record Label: Summit Records
  • Tracks: Eternal Licks & Grooves, Claire de Lune, Mirror Images, Guiding Star, Invitation, Im Old Fashioned
  • Musicians: Appearing in Cleveland'
  • Rating: Four Stars
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