A big band tribute to pioneering Southern rock band the Allman Brothers, 2019's A Jazz Celebration of the Allman Brothers Band balances brightly swinging jazz with earthy, electric-guitar twang. The brainchild of executive producer John Harvey, the album features a bevy of Nashville studio pros known collectively here as the Big Band of Brothers. Included among them is guitarist (and director of the Jazz Studies Program at the University of Alabama School of Music) Tom Wolfe, who solos throughout and supplies several arrangements. Also showcased are a handful of guest artists including trombonist Wycliffe Gordon, slide guitarist Jack Pearson, and singers Marc Broussard and Ruthie Foster. While at first the notion of a big band take on the bluesy, hard-rocking sound of late guitarist Duane Allman and his brother, singer/keyboardist Gregg Allman, might seem like an odd fit, it works quite well. The BBB group don't actually have to alter the band's music much to make it work here -- tracks like the opening "Statesboro Blues," "Hot 'Lanta," and "Don't Want You No More" were already fairly swinging songs built around solo-friendly R&B forms. Here, "Statesboro" gets a Count Basie-esque treatment via trombonist Gordon, as Broussard offers a soulful vocal lead. Gordon also grabs the spotlight on "Don't Want You Know More," supplying a bluesy soprano trombone solo against Andy Nevala's juicy organ backing. Even the gritty "Whipping Post" works here with Broussard again evoking the gospel-tinged source material as the band plays a dynamically reharmonized version of the song's classic, driving bass riff. Even the more esoteric Allman Brothers songs like the flowing ballad "Dreams" and guitarist Dickey Betts' trippy instrumental "Les Brers in A Minor" fit easily into the sonically expansive yet tightly swinging approach of the Big Band of Brothers. Admittedly, there's a level of West Coast studio slickness that creeps into some of these arrangements, detracting from some of the raw musicianship on display. Nonetheless, the loose spirit and genre-crossing sense of discovery that drove much of the Allman Brothers' music is equally at work here.
AllMusic Review by Matt Collar