The Gillespie legacy is preserved and propagated to superb effect on this exemplary collection. Under the baton of trumpet maestro Jon Faddis, the assembled cast of players more than earn the All-Star tag. On board are trumpeters Claudio Roditi, Earl Gardner, Greg Gisbert and Terell Stafford. They share charts with saxophonists James Moody, Jimmy Heath, Frank Wess, Antonio Hart and Gary Smulyant. The trombonists are Slide Hampton, Jay Ashby and David Gibson, with Douglas Purviance on bass trombone. Renee Rosnes (piano), Marty Ashby (guitar and exec producer), John Lee (bass), Dennis Mackrel (drums) and Duke (no last name, on percussion) round out the stellar cast.
Recorded live over four days at Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild in Pittsburgh in September 2000, the big band tackles a program equal to their talent. The opening take on Benny Golson’s "Stablemates" sets the high-octane pace, from which they rarely sway. On Quincy Jones’ "Jessica’s Day," we’re treated to wonderful solos from Moody, Faddis, Hart and Rosnes, and, as is the case throughout, the ensemble work is nothing less than spectacular. On the title cut, Faddis scratches the stratosphere, Hampton works the slide into a red-hot frenzy, Rosnes exhibits her consistently inventive phrasing -- here at a break-neck pace -- Hart wiggles into and out of corners and drummer Mackrel takes a fiery solo turn. This is certainly a band that earns their bread. They slow it down slightly on Monk’s "Round Midnight," with some interesting contrapuntal work. Wess is particularly moving here. They do a booty shake through "Manteca," for which Wess brings out the flute and Jimmy Heath shows off still-strong chops.
Through Golson’s "Whisper Not," and "I Remember Clifford," the audience seems somewhat reserved, considering the musical excitement generated through the speakers. That reserve is cast aside for the closing take on "A Night In Tunisia." Faddis trades bars with Roditi, Stafford and Gisbert here, and the solos from Hampton and Moody are merely spectacular. This is hands-down one of the year’s best recordings. Expect to see a Grammy nomination.