Recorded live at one of the LA Jazz Institute’s 4 day jazz extravaganzas put on by Ken Poston – this one a tribute to Stan Kenton’s LA Neophonic Orchestra’s 40th Anniversary – Bud Shank put together a West Coast dream band. Shank was a major soloist in the Neophonic Orchestra, and here he is the main soloist as well. His choice of compositions for this live show are impeccable and he has the services of West Coast legends Bob Florence, Manny Albam, and Mike Barone, as arrangers. The fact that the band had only a few rehearsals is remarkable as they sound like they have been playing together for years.
Shank’s dream big band has a front line featuring West Coast stars Ron Stout and Carl Saunders on trumpets; Andy Martin and Mike Barone on trombones: and reedmen Lanny Morgan and Jack Nimitz. A more than able rhythm section features pianist Christian Jacob, bassist Joel Hamilton, and drummer, Kevin Kanner.
The CD roars off to a hard-charging start with Mike Barone’s Rosebud, with Shank up front and the rest of the band in hot pursuit. Next Shank, a devotee of Bill Evans (having done an entire CD of Evans compositions for Fresh Sound Records in 1996), chose Evans’ masterpiece Waltz for Debbie for big band treatment, ably arranged by local legend, Bob Cooper. Another Cooper tune, Greasiness is Happening, is an appropriate title to record, as Shank digs in with a greasy solo.
Another treat that is provided on this CD are the introductions by Shank himself, particularly his introduction to his tribute to Artie Shaw, The Starduster. Shank mentions that both he, Art Pepper, Phil Woods, and Lee Konitz, all started out as clarinetists, and Artie Shaw was their inspiration. The Starduster is a lovely tribute and one of the highlights of Taking the Long Way Home.
By far the longest track on the CD, the title track at 18:54, was composed in 2001 on the occasion of Bud Shank’s 75th birthday. Florence did the arrangement for the recording on this new CD as well. As Bud celebrates his 80th birthday this year, it is time to give him his due – along with Phil Woods and Lee Konitz – as the premier elder statesmen of the alto sax. As we seemingly lose our jazz masters by the month, it is such a pleasure to see both Woods and Shank still going so strong, and sometimes playing together on the same shows lately. Kudos to Jazzed Media for having both of them on their label roster. Jazzed Media has to be considered one of the top few labels still recording our elderly jazz heroes, keeping in mind their recent release of the Bill Holman Big Band Live CD, reviewed here in Audiophile Audition just last month.
– Jeff Krow