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The Way: Music of Slide Hampton by Vanguard Jazz Orchestra

Every bit a New York institution as say, the Yankees, Carnegie Hall or better yet, the falafel the Vanguard Orchestra has been a regular fixture at the swank Village Vanguard where they can be seen and heard every Monday night delighting the patrons with their rich sound, dense harmonies and stable of first-rate soloists. And now they have teamed up with the trombone’s greatest player and jazz’s most gifted writer-arranger the incomparable Slide Hampton who brings his considerable knowledge and experience before this renowned orchestra in a CD simply entitled, the Music of Slide Hampton. In it Hampton delivers an ensemble of suites and tunes dedicated to some of jazz’s most gifted and influential players and undersung arranger-composers. And if that isn’t enough, he even manages to squeeze out time to play the bone.

Guiding the orchestra under his swinging baton Hampton delivers with a jaunty opener You Asked For It written for tenor great John Coltrane which charges ahead with its gutsy solos that are characteristic of Coltrane’s fervor and spirit, if not style. Hampton writes a four-part movement with each section dedicated to his unheralded peers. Thad Jones who was famously known for his Pop Goes The Weasel quote in Vernon Dukes’ April in Paris is recognized here for his arranging talents and rich sound (he is the brainchild of the Vanguard Orchestra, the other being Mel Lewis). In One For Thad there is a beautiful succession of solos by tenor man, Ralph Lalama and trumpeter Schott Wendholt (both of whom have their own leader dates).

Strayhorn soothes us with a trio of warm flutes at the hands of Dick Oatts, Belly Drewes and Rich Perry whose unison trills is suggestive of the brilliant warmth and harmonic subtlety of Duke Ellington’s prolific writing partner and close friend Billy Strayhorn. Similarly, Gil introduces with a pallet of oblique colors. Check out the intoxicating soprano work of Drewes in this work’s nod to one of jazz’s most influential and illustrative arrangers, Gil Evans. Enough can’t be said of the man who collaborated with the oft difficult and mercurial Miles Davis to create works of lasting beauty and substance.

Tadd Dameron in many ways helped to refine the neurotic pulse of bebop with his warm arrangements and understated compositions. The rip saw opening of Dameron helps to set the beboppish and playful mood which prompts an energized Perry on tenor followed by a controlled attack by the excellent baritone saxophonist Gary Smulyan.

Past, Present & Future opens with the reflective horns which shift to a good old swing that adds fuel to the wrenching solos by Sumulyan and Wendholt, two strong examples of today’s musicians both of whose playing declares that jazz is strong and in fine form now and well into the 21st century. His tour de force, Frame For the Blues, Hampton never fails to deliver on this war-horse blues. He digs deep with an earthy solo giving treat to his facile work on trombone and proclaiming that Slide Hampton not only pens alluring and tasteful compositions but can still play with the best of ‘em.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Vanguard Jazz Orchestra
  • CD Title: The Way: Music of Slide Hampton
  • Genre: Big Band / Swing
  • Year Released: 2004
  • Record Label: Planet Arts Recordings
  • Tracks: You Asked For It, Part 1: One For Thad, Part 2: Strayhorn, Part 3: Gil, Part 4: Dameron, Past Present & Future, The Way and Frame For The Blues.
  • Musicians: Earl Gardner, Joe Mosello, Frank Greene, Glenn Drewes & Scott Wendholt (trumpet), John Mosca, Luis Bonilla, Jason Jackson & Douglas Purviance (trombone), Dick Oatts, Billy Drewes, Rich Perry, Ralph Lalama & Gary Smulyan (reeds), Jim McNeely (piano), Dennis Irwin (bass) and John Riley (drums)
  • Rating: Four Stars
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