Melton Mustafa

St. Louis Blues

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Melton Mustafa, a veteran of both the Duke Ellington and Count Basie "ghost" bands, decided a few years back to try his hand at a big band of his own. It was a performance at a Hollywood, Florida jazz festival where he caught the ear of producer Bob Weinstock, who immediately decided that he wanted to record the band. The result is this delightful ten-track collection that evokes the big-band era with some contemporary accoutrements. Mustafa's love of Miles Davis's music -- an early and pervasive influence -- is beautifully evoked on the tribute tune "To You, Miles." Joining Mustafa and his regular working band -- which features fine solo work from alto saxophonist and older brother Jesse Jones, Jr. and pianist John McMinn -- are two special guests, multi-instrumentalist Ira Sullivan and trumpeter Pete Minger, another alumni of the Basie band. Sullivan plays alto flute on "Conquest," moving over to trumpet with Minger on "Double Clutch." The album's centerpiece is the ten-minute-plus "St. Louis Blues Overture," where Mustafa almost runs the history of jazz trumpeting through his horn and this venerable classic. Although the album is dedicated to the song's composer, W.C. Handy (and Muhammad Ali), the rest of this fine album features nothing but Mustafa originals with "The Exotic Birds, "Crystal Light," "So Be It," "The Chant," "The Soul of Soul" and "Little Old Groove Maker" all being equally noteworthy inclusions. If economics (World War II) and changing times (bebop, television) spelled the death of the big-band era, Mustafa's fine ensemble work and spirited playing from his outfit illustrate that in a different world, yes, the big bands could come back and find a new audience in present time.

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