Some folks are real purists when it comes to the term "brass band." They insist that a group isn't really a brass band unless it adheres to an all-horns-all-the-time policy -- that if a group combines a bunch of horn players with any part of a traditional rhythm section (piano, bass and drums), it isn't really a brass band. Well, the Dr. Macaroni Brass Band doesn't favor a horns-only format on Cum Laude, but they come awfully close. Recorded in Madrid, Spain in 2002, this promising CD unites two drummers (George Stolz and leader Peter Dieterle) with five horn players: Manuel Machado (trumpet), Cheryl Walters (trombone), Marcelo Peralta (tenor sax), Mario Esconde (baritone sax) and Chiaki Mawatari (tuba). So even though Cum Laude doesn't totally exclude non-wind instruments, horns are dominant -- and the Latin-minded hard bop/post-bop septet certainly offers an unusual and intriguing combination of instruments for a jazz combo. Even though some of the warhorses that Dr. Macaroni Brass Band embraces on Cum Laude have been beaten to death over the years -- especially Duke Ellington's "Caravan" and W.C. Handy's "St. Louis Blues" -- they manage to bring some freshness to them, which is saying a lot. Not that Macaroni excludes non-warhorses -- actually, Cum Laude offers a healthy variety of material that ranges from two Horace Silver gems ("Señor Blues" and "Cape Verdean") to Herbie Hancock's "Chameleon" and South African pianist Abdullah Ibrahim/Dollar Brand's "African Market." By CD standards, this release isn't terribly generous; the disc clocks in at around 46 minutes and could have easily been a half-hour longer. Nonetheless, Cum Laude is a rewarding, memorable effort that offers its share of interesting surprises.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson