(Geoff Roach, baritone sax & alto flute; Matt Kesner, tenor, alto, & soprano sax; Randy Smith, trumpet; Jon Schermer, trombone, Bill Hazzard, vibes; Jack Conway, guitar; Brian Brockhouse, bass; Roy Kaufmann, drums)
For fans of the 1950s West Coast cool sound, it usually means picking up old Shorty Rogers, or Marty Paich CDs or LPs. Sure, there are current bigger bands such as Bill Holman, and Bob Florence, who are still recording, but there has been a dearth of midsize piano-less West Coast groups. Those that do, typically record just a single CD, usually with a theme honoring a former West Coast legend.
That is what makes discovering Octobop such a nice surprise. They are based out of Northern California in the San Jose area. They are not a flash in the pan, having recorded already four CDs. This octet is led by the versatile saxophonist Geoff Roach. The rest of the octet identified above play reeds, trumpet, trombone, vibes, guitar, bass and drums.
Their latest CD, Very Early, combines updated West Coast charts from noted composers, Marty Paich, Johnny Mandel, and Henry Mancini. Also included are selections from Gerry Mulligan, Bill Evans, and Charlie Mingus. Recorded at Berkeley’s famed Fantasy Studios, in September 2006, and produced by Roach, this CD has great clarity and smooth sound benefiting the West Coast arrangements.
Some favorites include Mandel’s winning Keester Parade, which features Jon Schermer’s trombone, and the muted trumpet of Randy Smith. Roach’s arrangement of Mancini’s Pink Panther theme matches any version I’ve heard. Mulligan’s A Ballad, also arranged by Roach, is quite special. Roach’s bari sax solo here will be enjoyed by any Jeru fan. The Bill Evans-penned title cut, makes great use of the vibes playing of Bill Hazzard.
The classic Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans? is a nice mix of West Coast cool and New Orleans sass. Good Bye Pork Pie has both the blues feel and the sadness that Charlie Mingus so ably conveyed.
Check out Octobop for yourself and be prepared to be impressed. They fit a niche that West Coast fans have been missing-updated arrangements of the classic West Coast sound of the 1950s and 60s.
TrackList: Love Me or Leave Me, Keester Parade, Pink Panther, A Ballad, Very Early, Powder Puff, Mosaic, Born to be Blue, Saudades, Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?, Goodbye Pork Pie Hat, You’re My Everything
– Jeff Krow