Dave Siebels (B-3) with Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band – (TrackList follows) – PBGL 8111 *****:
Portland Jazz Orchestra – Good Morning, Geek (Music of Charley Gray) – PJO 101 *****:
Don’t despair, big band fans, there are still some great big bands to be had on CD and here are two of them. I know many big band fans are also B-3 Hammond fans, so the first one should appeal to them. It is the latest from the Grammy and Emmy Award-winning Big Phat Band of Gordon Goodwin’s—currently the hottest-selling big band in the world. But it also features B-3 virtuoso Dave Siebels plus some terrific arrangements and great sonics. There’s not many B-3 albums backed by a big band, though Joey DeFrancesco has done some.
Goodwin uses some of the top musicians in the LA area in his 17-piece band, and has put together a very contemporary sound that mixes jazz, rock and Latin styles along with a flair for the unexpected. Dave Siebels has performed with such people as Joe Williams, B.B. King, Ray Charles and Rita Coolidge, and he recently won an Emmy for his original score for a PBS film. He composed seven of the ten tracks here, with others from Steve Wonder, Neil Hefti and Lalo Schifrin. Top guitarist Grant Geissman has some great solos on both the opening “The Coupe” and “Girl Talk.” I also dug Sal Lozano’s flute solo on Schifrin’s “The Cat.” Three of the tracks are not with the big band, but just the B-3 and some backup players. No longer hi-res or surround like their first albums, and not quite at the superb standard of their previous ones like Swingin’ for the Fences of The Phat Pack, the Big Phat Band still sounds like a blast!
The Portland Jazz Orchestra is an 18-member group, the resident ensemble of the Portland Jazz Festival, and supported by a grant from Portland State University. At one of the recent Jazz Festivals they did a superb performance of Ellington’s Nutcracker Suite. It is run by trombonist Lars Campbell and composer/professor Charley Gray, who composed all eight tracks on this CD. The first and title track opens with a great piano solo, but there are only three performers listed under Rhythm, so I don’t know who it is. “Lucy” is a laid-back Latin-sounding vehicle, with some nice flute and trumpet work. “Lars Attacks” naturally has trombonist Campbell in a roaring solo. “Knuckleball” is the album closer. It opens like a TV or film theme, then goes into some wild interaction of all the sections, with a wisp of the theme of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” leaking thru. One of the five saxists of the band does the fine solo near the conclusion.
Dave Siebels = The Coupe, Not That There’s Anything Wrong with That, DA Blues, Girl Talk, I Wish, The Gospel According to Hammond, I Love You Even More Again, The Cat, Sort of Like a Samba, The Eleventh Hour
Good Morning, Geek = Good Morning Geek, Again; Unlikely Event; Lucy; Better Than One; Lars Attackes; Not Yet; Three On a Tree Two; Knuckleball
Pharaoh Sanders – Live… – Pure Pleasure Records
This vinyl upgrade is a fitting homage to a jazz legend.