Recorded in two separate 1977 performances at FitzGerald's Nightclub and originally released in March of 1998, these two concerts by the high-flying Chicago Metropolitan Jazz Orchestra under the leadership of Lenny King have been reissued by the Chicago Lakeside Jazz label. Guesting is former Stan Kenton & His Orchestra section player Dennis Noday, whose upper-atmosphere trumpet pyrotechnics are featured on "Blue," "Maria," and "MacArthur Park." Noday was assigned that unique Kenton screeching trumpet role following in the shoes of the likes of Ray Wetzel and Maynard Ferguson. Noday also shows that he is not one dimensional as he waxes romantically in Harry James-style on a couple of cuts. Significant solo outings are not limited to the Noday's horn. The excellent expressive tenor sax of Mark Colby carries the day on "Yesterdays," despite the efforts of a very heavy trumpet/trombone section to drown him out, also reminiscent of Kenton. Don Rader's "Greasy Sack Blues gives Terry Connell an opportunity to show Noday that he is by no means the only kid on the block handy with the valved horn. Leader King includes some of Kenton's more memorable orchestrations, like Dee Barton's haunting arrangement of "Here's That Rainy Day from the 1970 recording Live at the Redlands University. But he also remembers charts by lesser-known Kenton arrangers like Frank Mantooth and Gordon Brisker. Mantooth's orchestral version of "Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most" is especially impressive due mainly to the trombone of Hary Kozlowski. This is one of the tracks where there is no "screamin' and kickin'," but rather a lovely ballad played in a respectful soft and gentle manner. All in all, this session provides almost 70 minutes of music played (not all at once) by 20 talented musicians happily enthusiastic about what they're doing -- before an audience happily enthusiastic about what they're hearing. Recommended.
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AllMusic Review by Dave Nathan