Because Nice 'n' Easy -- Carl Fontana's 1997 encounter with fellow trombonist Jiggs Whigham -- was a creative success, the two were reunited three years later. Recorded in 2000, Keepin' up With the Boneses has the same quintet heard on Nice 'n' Easy. Fontana and Whigham comprise a two-trombone front line, and the rhythm section consists of bassist Tom Warrington, drummer Ed Soph, and Swedish pianist Stefan Karlsson (now living in Las Vegas). The quintet was quite cohesive in 1997, and TNC Jazz had no reason to believe that things would be any different in 2000. However, Keepin' up With the Boneses is not a carbon copy of Nice 'n' Easy. Both albums are bop-oriented, but Nice 'n' Easy tends to be more laid-back. Fontana and Whigham are exuberant and hard-swinging on "Klook Spangalang," "Mini-Bar Blues," and the title song (all Whigham originals), although they are quite lyrical on the standards "It Had to Be You" and "Embraceable You." But even the CD's most up-tempo tracks are not ultra-competitive. Fontana and Whigham do not engage in trombone battles, and their approach is one of cooperation rather than competition. Besides, what did the veteran trombonists have to prove in 2000? Fontana was 71 while Whigham was 56 -- neither were spring chickens and neither felt the need to beat listeners over the head with his chops (although their chops were holding up nicely). Because Fontana and Whigham comprise a two-trombone front line, some listeners will inevitably compare Nice 'n' Easy and Keepin' up With the Boneses to J.J. Johnson's encounters with Kai Winding in the '50s and '60s. That isn't a bad comparison, although Fontana and Whigham are talented trombonists in their own right. Those who enjoyed Nice 'n' Easy will also find a lot to appreciate about Keepin' up With the Boneses.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson