Inferno!: 150 MPH/Dynamite

Louie Bellson

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Inferno!: 150 MPH/Dynamite Review

by William Ruhlmann

Although the two albums combined on this reissue were recorded five years apart (150 MPH, though not released until 1979, was cut in sessions on May 25 and July 29, 1974, while Dynamite was recorded live at the Concord Jazz Festival in August 1979 and first issued in 1980), they have a lot in common. Both are big band dates, and some of the same personnel appear on both: trumpeter Bobby Shew; trombonists Nick DiMaio (the co-producer of 150 MPH), Dana Hughes, and Bob Payne; saxophonists Dick Spencer and Don Menza (who wrote six selections, four on 150 MPH and two on Dynamite); and percussionist/vibes player Jack Arnold. Beyond that, the musical approach is much the same on both albums. Drummer/leader Louie Bellson filled both with originals, most of them written either by himself or Menza, although there is a cover of Rodgers & Hammerstein's "Hello Young Lovers" from The King and I on 150 MPH and then-teenaged saxophonist Matt Catingub contributed the closing track, "Explosion," to Dynamite. Bellson and Menza's tunes are busy swing numbers with plenty of room for soloing by the horn players, particularly Shew and (on 150 MPH) tenor saxophonist Pete Christlieb. Of course, the leader gets his say, too, particularly on the barnburners that close each album, "Inferno" and "Explosion." The result is a collection that demonstrates the continuing possibilities of the big band format 30 years after its commercial heyday.

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