Chris Walden’s debut album, 2005’s Home of My Heart (previously reviewed) was a hard act to follow. His latest CD does not match the full power and force of his debut, but it is still a fine contemporary big band issue. In these days when true big band recordings with new material are so rare, Walden delivers the goods again by mixing a jazz version of David Foster’s theme from the 2006 Winter Olympics with three Walt Disney songs, a Miles Davis classic, and a tribute to the great American jazz photographer William Claxton. Walden also contributes four self-penned compositions to the big band stew.
No Bounds was also recorded at Los Angeles’ Capitol Studios. This time Tommy Vicari takes the place of Al Schmitt as recording and mixing engineer. Vocalist Tierney Sutton also has a return engagement handling the vocal duties on People Will Say We’re in Love as well as on Charles Chaplin’s standard, Smile. Other returning band members include the brilliant Carl Saunders and Wayne Bargeron on trumpets, Bob McChesney on trombone, Brandon Fields on sax, and Alan Steinbarger on piano. Some new heavyweight members added on No Bounds are Kim Richmond on sax and European trumpeter, Til Bronner, who contributes the Claxton tribute. An added bonus to fill out the big band is the addition of French horns and full string section of violins, violas, and cello. The string section contributes moody backing to Bronner on the Claxton tribute. Bronner’s solo has a warm open tone reminiscent of Miles Davis.
Unlike Walden’s debut on which he only wrote, arranged, and conducted, on his latest he also plays his flugelhorn, and he has a nice solo on In the Doghouse. No Bounds concludes with a unique electric cello solo by Martin Tillman on Otterkam and a twisted fun version of the usually insipid Disney theme It’s a Small World After All. Walden has a fearless ability to tackle non-jazz related material such as the Disney themes here as well as the Star Wars theme on his debut CD, Home of My Heart.
Along with Maria Schneider, Walden keeps our hopes alive that big band recordings are not relics of the past, but will continue well into the future. Let’s hope that major labels will follow Origin Records‚ cue and open their checkbooks to keep new big band prodigies like Chris Walden in the studios and not relegated only to doing film scores.
— Jeff Krow