JJ 02/94: GRP All Star Big Band – Live!

Thirty years ago Richard Palmer reckoned he hadn't heard a big band swing so hard on such imaginative music since Thad Jones and Mel Lewis. First published in Jazz Journal February 1994


The GRP All Stars’ inaugural stu­dio session was reviewed in November 92’s issue by Derek Ansell, who made it one of his Records of the Year. I would have done too had I heard it in time: it is a stunning, joyous session that I have played over and over. This follow-up does not quite have the same impact, partly because it is a sequel, and also because three of the charts (Manteca, Train and Sadie) were featured on the ear­lier CD; nevertheless, it is a very classy session.

Michael Abene’s arrangement of Rollins’s Oleo gets things off to a cracking start, with a profusion of solos in which Daniels, Burton and Marienthal particularly excel. On My Man’s Grusin sensibly gives Evans-Davis a very wide berth, creating instead a vigor­ous, modal-based chart which inspires fine solos from Brecker, Marienthal again and the arranger on piano.

Elsewhere, Grusin shines again as composer and player on Howard, Daniels’s chart for Sing is complex and very busy but swings ferociously, and Cherokee is devoted to a four-trumpet ‘battle’ whose spoils in my view go to the amaz­ing Sandoval. The lovely two-piano interlude by Grusin and Ferrante on ’S Wonderful is an inspired piece of programming which gives the set added charm and range. Which leaves the three ‘re-heats’; I find Train and (especially) Sadie less exciting than their precursal versions, and they also seem slightly less cleanly executed; but Manteca is a knock-out, and marginally supe­rior to its ‘parent’.

I haven’t heard a big band swing so hard or play such imag­inative music since the days of Thad Jones and Mel Lewis 15-plus years ago – and mention of Mel prompts me to highlight the magnificent work on this date of Dave Weckl. Go out and get it – but make sure you also have the studio date.

Oleo; My Man’s Gone Now; Sing, Sing, Sing; Manteca; Blues For Howard; Cherokee; Blue Train; ’S Wonderful; Sister Sadie; GRP Band Introduction/Dave Grusin (63.42)
Collective personnel: Tom Scott (ldr/ts/ss/bar); Arturo Sandoval, Randy Brecker, Chuck Findley, Byron Stripling (t/flh); George Bohanon (tb); Eric Marienthal, Nelson Rangell, Ernie Watts, Bob Mintzer, Eddie Daniels, Philip Bent (reeds); Gary Burton (vib); Dave Grusin, Russell Ferrante (p); John Patitucci (b); Dave Weckl (d). Gotanda Kan-i Hoken Hall, Tokyo, January 31, 1993.
(GRP 97402)