Jack Cortner Big Band – Sound Check – Jazzed Media

by | Aug 8, 2009 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

Jack Cortner Big Band – Sound Check – Jazzed Media JM 1046, 59:18 ****:

(Artists include: Marvin Stamm, trumpet and flugelhorn; Jim Pugh, trombone; Jon Gordon, alto sax; Dave Tofani, tenor sax; Bill Mays, piano; John Riley, drums; Produced and arranged by Jack Cortner)

Following his Jazzed Media debut release in 2007, Jack Cortner and his cohort, the great trumpeter, Marvin Stamm, are back with another sublime big band effort, Sound Check. Also returning are veterans Jim Pugh, Dave Tofani, the brilliant, Bill Mays, and John Riley.

Recorded over a three year period ( single day sessions in 2007-2009), Cortner has chosen sound and well- known compositions – Strike Up the Band, Speak Low, Cantaloupe Island, Caravan, You and the Night and the Music – as well as adding his own compositions Sound Check and a La Mode.

What makes Cortner special are his arrangements – they are clean, bright, and display careful charting for the horns. Cortner’s background in the commercial, Broadway, and television arenas has clearly taught him that there is no need for grandstanding. Featuring Marvin Stamm as lead soloist – he solos on each track – is a smart move as Cortner and Stamm have known each other for years and Cortner’s charts display Stamm’s talents to the fullest, as Marvin has the same no nonsense ability to communicate directly with the listener. The same can be said for pianist Bill Mays, who is the both the consummate accompanist and sparkling, creative soloist evidenced as first choice pianist for many veterans (he’s on the swan song release of Bud Shank).

Strike Up the Band takes off right off as a great opening track choice. Speak Low, one of the classics that one never tires of hearing, features Stamm and Mays. Sometime Ago is a gorgeous ballad and the burnished tones of Stamm are blissful. Herbie Hancock’s Cantaloupe Island, an interesting choice for big band treatment, has the familiar Hancock melody, but Mays takes it in new directions and Stamm and the muted horns add some nice touches. Taking on this standard shows Cortner’s ability to tackle the familiar and add some new flourishes.

The title track brings to mind some of Count Basie’s bands with simple piano lines leading to the brass section pouring on heat. Bassist Jay Anderson has a nice solo before Stamm steps up and delivers. Arranging the dreamy Love Theme from Morricone’s Cinema Paradiso soundtrack, must have been a treat for Cortner, knowing that he had Marvin Stamm and Bill Mays to deliver the melody.

You and the Night and the Music, and It’s All Right With Me, close out Sound Check. The former provides trombonist Jim Pugh with a great opportunity to display his warm tone, reminiscent of JJ Johnson; while the latter closes the CD with Cole Porter done with class and adding solos for tenor player, Dave Tofani and solid altoist, Jon Gordon, who also solos on Cantaloupe Island.

At a time period in which economics dictate that mid-size bands dominate jazz up to octet size, it is a pleasure to have an opportunity to review a swinging big band aggregation under a steady hand of a pro like Jack Cortner. Hopefully, it will not be another two years before we get a visit from Cortner and Company….

TrackList: Strike Up the Band, Speak Low, Sometime Ago, Cantaloupe Island, Sound Check, Yesterdays, Caravan, Cinema Paradiso Love Theme, a la Mode, You and the Night and the Music, It’s All Right With Me

– Jeff Krow

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