Tom Talbert has long been a fixture in Los Angeles, writing arrangements, recording albums, and occasionally appearing with his big band in local clubs. He is known for recording one classic set in the 1950s (Bix Fats Duke, which has been reissued by the Modern Concepts label), but even veteran collectors can be forgiven for not being familiar with the historic recordings that are on his Sea Breeze CD, since the majority of these valuable performances were previously unissued. Talbert led an orchestra in Los Angeles between 1946 and 1950 that was (thanks to his advanced writing) as modern as the big bands of Stan Kenton and Boyd Raeburn without copying either. The first four numbers on this CD feature trumpeter Frank Beach and tenor saxophonist Babe Russin as the chief soloists, and "Flight of the Vout Bug" (which is actually from a session led by Lyle Griffin) showcases pianist Dodo Marmarosa and the tenor of Lucky Thompson. However it is the charts from 1949 that are of greatest interest, for among Talbert's sidemen are altoist Art Pepper, Jack Montrose on tenor, and pianist Claude Williamson. The music, with its cool-toned reeds, powerful brass, advanced harmonies, and solid swing, still sounds fresh and enthusiastic, and the occasional vocals are well done. Artistically, this orchestra was quite successful but the big-band business was collapsing at the time and, when Kenton re-formed his orchestra in 1950, Talbert broke up his group and went back to writing full-time. Fans of modern big bands should be quite excited by the long-overdue release of this exciting and historic music on SeaBreeze. Highly recommended.
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AllMusic Review by Scott Yanow