Vance Thompson is the leader and chief arranger of the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra, a conventional but high-quality big band. On Blues Man from Memphis, the orchestra performs eight compositions by pianist Donald Brown, who not only plays piano and electric piano but arranged "The Scenic Route to Donny's Heart." His music is advanced hard bop that swings but is not overly predictable, covering many moods. In addition to Brown, the guest soloists on various selections include Greg Tardy on soprano and tenor, Stefon Harris (who is very impressive during his four appearances) and bassist John Clayton. From the orchestra itself, tenor saxophonist Bill Scarlett, altoist Mark Tucker, guitarist Mark Boling and trumpeter Thomas Heflin have their spots while Bill Mobley contributes two arrangements. Listeners who enjoy modern big bands will find much to savor during these flawless performances. And it is particularly rewarding getting to hear Donald Brown again.
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AllMusic Review by Scott Yanow