For this, their third CD, the BOPO continue to refine and define the modern big-band repertoire by looking ahead with challenging charts while frequently going back to the root of the tradition. They're collectively searching for those ignored and unexplored vistas the older music still maintains, while always trying new things. The result is a delightful big band not stuck in first gear, and charging hard in their second decade of music making.
Some of the early period material includes a rousing "Panama" with Paul Klinger's baritone saxophone shining through, and the mysterious Don Redman cherry "Chant of the Weed," with Mark Kieme's clarinet adding the witch's brew flavor. Susan Chastain sings four numbers in her demure, measured way, her best swing on "I'm Gonna Lock My Heart" and the coy "Santa Passed My House This Year." Paul Finkbeiner's beautifully plaintive trumpet feature on "The Very Thought of You" is a true highlight. The more progressive numbers are Matt Wilson's title track, with its call-and-response head and roaring melody, Chris Kase's Thad & Mel-like hip "Brilliant Corners," and Neil Hefti's "Flight of the Foo Birds," the most hard bopping track here with some nice unison melody from the horns and vibist Cary Kocher. Contrasting piano work comes from the Jelly Roll Morton-influenced James Dapogny on most of the disc, and the cool, Bill Evans-ish style of Ellen Rowe on "What Would Eddie Do?" for the late Eddie Russ. Rowe arranged some of the tunes, most particularly the chart she wrote for the big-band Diva on "I Feel Pretty." Other outstanding solos are taken by trombonist Chris Smith times three, tenor saxophonist Andrew Bishop on the original "Jazz Lady After Dark," and the title track, alto saxophonist Keith Kaminski on "Corners" and "Foo," as well as the exceptional drummer Pete Siers on the title track and "Panama."
The tradition of territory or regional big bands lives on, and holds strong in the '90s. Here's enjoyable proof from Ann Arbor, MI in the presence of this mighty, artful, swinging outfit. You can hear them every Monday night at the Bird of Paradise Jazz Club in the City of Trees.