Canadian valve trombonist, arranger, and composer Rob McConnell is best known for his work of 30 years with Boss Brass, an ensemble widely acknowledged as one of jazz's leading big bands. The three Grammys and 13 Grammy nominations under Boss Brass's belt are due, in no small part, to McConnell's clean, colorful charts and talent as a bandleader and soloist. After a hiatus, during which McConnell worked primarily with a Tentet, the ambitious 'bone man is back with the SWR Big Band, reformulating the Boss Brass line-up of heavily stacked (about four to five in each section) trumpets, trombones, French horns, saxophones, and percussionists.
Like Boss Brass, the SWR Big Band swings hard in the traditional bop vein. McConnell's skills as an arranger are on full display here on chestnuts like "Autumn In New York," "Stella By Starlight," and "Things Ain't What They Used To Be." Charlie Parker's "Confirmation" and Horace Silver's "Peace" get particularly notable treatments, with impressive rounds of solos from band personnel on each. McConnell's own compositions make a fine showing too: "So Very Rob," a mid tempo lyrical number with a light swing, gives way to "Sixth Sense," an up-tempo number with a challenging frontline and surprising interaction between the horns.