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Pags Groove by Michael Pågan Big Band

Duke Ellington had the hard-earned luxury, and headache, of having his own full-time traveling orchestra as an outlet for his compositions. Although that is impossible in 2005 there are still ways to achieve that goal and musicians eager to play creative big band music. An example is the Colorado-based Michael Pagån Big Band and Pag's Groove.

Michael Pagån is a musician/educator and an excellent mainstream jazz pianist who deserves a lot more renown. His previous CDs are a solo piano album, Nobody Else But Me and Is Waiting For You with his quintet. On Pag's Groove he arranged all the tunes and wrote all but one of the compositions. As an arranger he reminds me somewhat of Bill Holman. Nothing wrong with that! His group of talented players is crisp, confident and powerful.

"Never Let Me Go," the album's only standard, features Tom Myer's romantic tenor sound, an intense swinging chorus by the ensemble, and Pagån in one of his few solos on this CD. His originals are intricate, full of counterpoint. They must be fun to play. They're also easy to listen to and you'll find something new each time you do. The title cut, a light-hearted blues, allows vibraphonist Greg Harris to salute Milt Jackson. "Waltz for a Bad Hair Day" opens as a melancholy jazz waltz but is quickly brightened as Pete Olstad on flugelhorn, Myer on soprano and drummer Dave Rohif turn up the voltage. More counterpoint, boppish this time, and a fluid Pagån contribution highlight "Crazy Man's Game." The Latin-tinged ballad, "More Than a Friend" showcases Brad Goode on trumpet (open and muted) and Tom Ball on euphonium. "We're Almost There" was written for a high school band in Long Beach (in 7/4! some band!). The sax soli in that arrangement speaks to the quality of the Pagån band's section work. Nothing is trivial about "Essential Trivia." The chart moves right along with a strong statement by Pagån and excellent solos (and interplay) by Clare Church on baritone and Al Hood on trumpet.

Special attention has to be paid to "Lyric Interlude." It will grab you. The composition opens and closes as a bossa nova with eloquence in every tasty note from Greg Gisbert's flugelhorn. The core, however, is a majestic brass chorale. An inspired combination.

Pag's Groove is quality all the way, including extensive and insightful liner notes by educator, musician and historian Wayne Scott.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Michael Pågan Big Band
  • CD Title: Pags Groove
  • Genre: Big Band / Swing
  • Year Released: 2005
  • Record Label: Capri
  • Rating: Five Stars
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