Russell Garcia's Four Trombone Band can easily be compared to some of Stan Kenton's brass experiments, and more directly Slide Hampton's World of Trombones ensembles. This single-CD compilation features instrumental tracks reinventing a variety of standards and many selections featuring vocalist Frances Faye, with either pianists Marty Paich or Gerry Wiggins, respectively, in the rhythm sections. Garcia directs these substantive musicians on his unique arrangements, where the music jumps up and grabs your ears with the ineffable cool and swing typical of mid-'50s West Coast jazz. Detroiter Frank Rosolino relocated to California during this time, as Tommy Pederson and Herbie Harper were establishing themselves as session men, while Maynard Ferguson is heard here, not on trumpet, but valve trombone -- and all the participants sound like they are having a really good time. Garcia conducts this music, and puts the bandmembers through their paces, cleverly adding and subtracting measures during his original "I'll Never Forget What's Her Name," loading up staccato phrases for the 'bones during "Limehouse Blues," writing strong unison charts for the melodies of "Lover, Come Back to Me" and "Ramona," and offering a strict arrangement of Noël Coward's "Ziguener." Baritone saxophonist Dick Houlgate is the only other horn on these dates, and guitarist Al Hendrickson is the other front liner on the selections with Faye. The vocalist is straight-laced, stoic, effortless like peer Peggy Lee, and very solid. While fairly typical on well-known standards and a seamless seven-song medley, she steals the show from the trombones on the Mary and Norman Kaye-penned wordplay of the Latin-pop novelty tune "Toreador" and a calypso take of "I've Got You Under My Skin," and she revives the lost introductory lyrics of "Love for Sale." Chico Hamilton is greatly responsible for the tropical beats in his pre-boogaloo period, hopping up "Out of the World" as Faye glides along while his drum work is busily active. This is one of three Fresh Sound reissues showcasing the underappreciated Russell Garcia, only recognizable to California audiences in the main, but now with an opportunity -- like peers Bill Holman and Onzy Matthews -- to be known and revered on a larger scale some 60 years later.
Russell Garcia & His Four Trombone Band Review
by Michael G. Nastos