Frank Foster and The Loud Minority Big Band- Manhattan Fever +2 – Denon (Japan) PCM Digital HQ pressing – 1977, 68:15 [Also avail. at iTunes] ****:
(Likely artists include: Frank Foster, tenor and soprano sax, arranger, band leader; Don McIntosh, Virgil Jones, Chris Albert, Joe Gardner, Sinclair Acey – trumpets; Charles Williams, William Saxton, Kenny Rogers, Doug Harris, Bill Cody, Doug Harris – saxophones; Janice Robinson, Emmet McDonald, Charles Stephens, Bill Lowe, Kiane Zawadi – trombones; Mike Tucker, piano; Earl May, bass; Charlie Persip, drum)
You may just have to settle for some great big band charts by the inimitable Frank Foster, as on at least our review copy of Manhattan Fever +2, a 1977 Denon Japan re-release, we were provided only with a tracklist and nothing else. As on the other Denon Loud Minority re-issue, (Shiny Stockings), the late 70s provided a ready source of New York based musicians for Frank Foster, whose compositions or arrangements of Basie standards provided the “juice” that kept the Basie standard alive in the 1960s.
Foster’s composition, Thruway Traffic, opens the CD with a busy horn chart that really brings to mind a hectic Manhattan commute. Horns dart in and out of the melody and you can feel your pulse quicken – and be glad that you are not in the throng, but still experiencing by proxy, the madness that is Manhattan.
Four Five Six follows and thankfully the pace is back to tinkling piano and bluesy Basie style strut. Manhattan Fever, the title cut, can be confusing as Foster made a 1968 recording for Blue Note with the same title using many of the same members of this late 70s Denon session. When collectors think of Manhattan Fever they think of that Blue Note issue. Using Manhattan Fever +2 for the Denon issue adds to the confusion.
Regardless, the version of Manhattan Fever on the Denon issue is no slouch and swings in a punchy manner. Percussion percolates in the background as Foster takes solo honors in a mostly restrained manner while the brass begins to increase the tempo, especially the trombone soloist.
Ronnie Matthews’ Marie Jean is a sweet tune with a sophistication that sounds quite modern. Mickey Tucker’s piano solo is elegant and makes one wonder who Marie Jean was in Matthews’ life.
Two long bonus tracks- New Born and Karmageddon – are added to this Denon issue and are a nice bonus really stretching out the CD to near 70 minutes length. Karmageddon makes the earlier Thruway Traffic seem tame, as Foster’s soprano sax solo has an afterlife nightmarish quality that makes the song’s title appropriate.
This CD-R does not sound much different than a typical red book issue. Since Amazon.com has an under–$6 MP3 download of this CD, the less than stellar sound issue takes a back seat to the availability of this long out-of-print late 70s Loud Minority big band session.
TrackList: Thruway Traffic, Four Five Six, Manhattan Fever, Marie Jean, New Born, Karmageddon
– Jeff Krow