High note specialist trumpet player Rich Wetzel's big band looks to a different generation of big bands for their artistic source. Rather than those of the 1930s and 1940s, they use bands from the 1950s to the 1970s as inspiration, such as groups headed by Stan Kenton, Chuck Mangione, Buddy Rich, and Maynard Ferguson. This means that many tunes on the play list will not be as recognizable as the barn burners from the golden era of swing. It also means that they are a concert, not a dance, band. This two-CD set captures them in live performance from one of the Northwest's newer jazz spots, Tacoma's Jazzbones. This is a big group, 19 members in all. The players are from the Northwest and, most likely, performing jazz is not their principal livelihood. It's good for a big band not to be too tight. A certain looseness is desirable to give a freewheeling sound, a kind of creative tension. But it's also not good to be so loose that it results in sloppiness. For example, the trombone section opening for "Polka Dots and Moonbeams" is out of tune and the band never recovers throughout the playing of this classic standard. More section rehearsal is definitely called for. Similarly, some of the soloists fail to reach a level beyond that of good amateurs. On the plus side, there is an uncredited flute solo which makes "Almost Like Being in Love" one of the more agreeable tracks on the set. Lance Buller on trumpet excels on "A Night in Tunisia," which is another of the better cuts. "Beyond the Sea" features some good sax ensemble work. The seeds of a good big band are present. They need to be watered from time to time with greater doses of rehearsal.
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AllMusic Review by Dave Nathan