Live at Birdland

Scott Whitfield

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Live at Birdland Review

by Steve Loewy

Scott Whitfield is part of a new breed of jazz trombonists whose technical mastery of the instrument continually astonishes. For this live recording, Whitfield leads his disciplined big band through a good selection of tunes, some written by and all arranged by the trombonist. Recorded on his 40th birthday, and, incidentally, the 100th of Bix Beiderbecke, there is ample room for Whitfield to sport his amazing improvisational skills, an additional highlight being his surprisingly supple and deep vocals on a couple of numbers. Several of the "original" compositions are remakes of standards, such as the opening and hard-swinging "One-Way Street," which is based on the chords to "Green Dolphin Street," and "Juiced Friends," based closely on the chord changes to "Just Friends." If the arrangements are fairly mundane (though swinging), the solos are almost uniformly distinct, and in addition to the wonderful contributions of Whitfield, which are unquestioningly the highlight of the disc, there are solid improvisations by Dave Schumacher on bari sax on "One-Way Street" and "Laughin' & Lovin'," and some sizzling solos on tenor sax by Dan Jordan on "Laura" and "The Gift of Love." Whitfield is a name to watch, his playing on the cutting edge, directly in the line that extends from J.J. Johnson to Carl Fontana and Bill Watrous, though Whitfield's sound is his own. There are so few talented jazz trombonists leading big bands that Whitfield is an anomaly in that regard alone. This big band recording reaffirms his talent and marks him as a name to watch.

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