Rob Stoneback

Caught in the Web

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Historically, jazz has been big-city music. It was born in New Orleans and went on thrive in a variety of large cities -- everywhere from New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Kansas City in the United States to Stockholm, Paris, Vienna and Amsterdam in Europe to Rio de Janeiro and Havana in Latin America. But there is no law stating that jazz musicians cannot be based in small towns, and these days, there is a growing trend of improvisers working and recording in small-town America. The thing that fuels this trend is the ever-rising cost of urban living -- some jazzmen have found that it's easier to live a bohemian lifestyle in an affordable small town than an overpriced city. In the northeastern U.S., many jazz musicians have been attracted to parts of Upstate New York as well as the Poconos in northeastern Pennsylvania; one of those improvisers who lives and records in the Poconos is Rob Stoneback. That area's low cost of living has enabled the trombonist/arranger to lead a big band together since the early '80s. Recorded in Saylorsburg, PA (a small town in the Poconos) in 1995, Caught in the Web is a pleasant, if conventional, example of the type of big band bop that Stoneback has favored. Nothing remarkable or earth-shattering occurs, but the CD is generally likable -- and that is true of Stoneback's own material as well as swinging, exuberant arrangements of overdone standards like "Limehouse Blues" and Lionel Hampton's "Flying Home." Most of the performances are instrumental; however, vocalist Eileen Brady has some enjoyable spots on "Lullaby of Birdland" and "It Had to Be You." Regrettably, the jazz world is full of musicians who have a mindless hatred of singers in general -- and the fact that Stoneback is willing to feature them speaks well of him. Not exceptional but generally decent, Caught in the Web demonstrates jazz doesn't have to be recorded in a major city to have some merit.

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