Trumpeter Carl Saunders has been leading big bands on a part-time basis ever since he was a youth, including in Los Angeles since 1984. This 1999 recording was the first set by his impressive orchestra. Although several writers contributed charts to the CD (Larry Dominello, Bill Rogers, John Boice, John Hall, and Mike Barone, plus two from Jackson Stock), it is the five arrangements by Herbie Phillips that set the mood for the rewarding project. The late Phillips, a close friend of Saunders from his Las Vegas years, was a talented trumpeter and arranger/composer who loved bebop. There are many highlights through this stirring set, including "Compilation" (a run-through on rhythm changes with solos from Saunders, altoist Lanny Morgan, trombonist Bob McChesney, tenor saxophonist Jerry Pinter, and pianist Christian Jacob), a medium-tempo interpretation of "Emily" (with trombonist Andy Martin), "I'm All for You" (based on "Body and Soul"), "Some Bones of Contention" (featuring the trombones of Martin and McChesney), "Autumn in New York" (which has some beautiful ballad playing by Saunders), "An Apple for Christa" (featuring trumpeter Bob Summers, Morgan, and Martin), and "Baby Blues." In reality, all 12 selections have their moments of interest, the musicianship of the band is quite impressive, and the music always swings. Highly recommended, this is one of the best big band albums of the early 21st century.
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AllMusic Review by Scott Yanow