Phil Kelly & the SW Santa Ana Winds

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Switching from his usual partners, the NW Prevailing Winds, Phil Kelly takes on a new collective of musicians here, the SW Santa Ana Winds. The move is from Seattle to Los Angeles physically, and similarly for the musical aesthetic. Despite the core sound being determined by Kelly's arrangements, the players surrounding him (with the exception of NW trumpeter Jay Thomas) change to a slightly more dramatic tone. The compositions are an intriguing mix of originals and standards, all rearranged as needed for the big-band setting. Duke Pearson's "Jeannine" opens up the album with a catchy old-school feel thanks to the almost movie-score sound of the band. This is followed by a large-scale tribute of sorts to Monk, with a deep blues inflection straight out of a smoky juke joint and nice soloing from Jay Thomas and Brian Scanlon. Continuing on, Scanlon steals the show on "Pleading Dim Cap," and "Daydream" is given a tender working with only some renovation. The title track is the softest, most introspective piece on the album, almost out of place with its string section amidst the mass of jumping, hopping numbers. Latin grooves play a part in the next two pieces, "Juan Beatov Stomp" (it's one beat off, in 7/8) and a slightly samba-fied rendition of "Body and Soul." The album finishes off with a casual afternoon groove and a hot ending in "Zip Code 2005." The band plays at the peak of its game here, and Kelly's arrangements and compositions provide an excellent palette to work from. The sound is tight throughout, and the soloists generally excellent. Modern big band is making a bit of a resurgence, through folks like Kelly and Chris Walden. This one is a surefire hit for aficionados of the modern big band.

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