Lush – Joe Clark Big Band, featuring Jeff Hamilton – Jazzed Media JM1060, 52:04 ***:
(Dan Nicholson, Corbin Andrick, Chris Madsen, Anthony Bruno, Mark Hiebert – saxophones; Brent Turney, Chuck Parrish, Victor Garcia, B.J.Cord, Joe Clark – trumpets & flugelhorns; Andy Baker, Tom Garling, Bryant Scott, Tom Matta – trombones; Mike Pinto – guitar; Ryan Cohan – piano; Joe Policastro – bass; Jeff Hamilton – drums)
Chicago-based composer, arranger, and trumpeter Joe Clark has launched a debut big band album in an economic environment that is not necessarily conducive to such an undertaking. Nevertheless with Lush, Clark has tried to insulate himself from the vagaries of this project by enlisting the talent of highly-regarded drummer Jeff Hamilton, and put together a smart ensemble of capable musicians who are bursting in present-day harmony.
Working from arrangements that are solely the provenance of Clarke, the band offers five covers and three originals that demonstrate a common idea among the members of the ensemble. Among the covers, the set opens with the Thelonious Monk opus “Well, You Needn’t”, drummer Jeff Hamilton sets the pace, and then the band finds its own groove. The Billy Strayhorn ballad “Lush Life” is executed with a rich texture and a strong tenor saxophone solo from Chris Madsen. The Latin-flavored “Samba De Martelo” is adroitly imagined with guitarist Mike Pinto on firm ground. The Walter Gross/Jack Lawrence standard “Tenderly” which generally is a vocal tune, and which Rosemary Clooney used as the theme for her mid-’50s TV show, allows Joe Clark to show off his trumpet chops.
The three Joe Clark original compositions, “Red Sky”, “Free-Wheeling”, and ”Femme Fatale,” cover a wide-range of musical ground and reflect Clark’s broad–minded approach. The pieces are inventive and highly-adaptable, thereby giving the band a chance to relax. The soloists make good use of the structure of the charts to demonstrate their skills, with trombonist Tom Garling in the lead on the first tune, Victor Garcia on trumpet on the second, and finally pianist Ryan Cohan on the last offering.
This aggregation is more in the tradition of the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra rather than the Woody Herman Swinging Herds and that is not a bad thing.
TrackList: Well You Needn’t; Red Sky; Lush Life; Samba De Martelo; Free-Wheeling; Femme Fatale; Tenderly; Yesterday’s Gardenias.