When the Phil Norman Tentet was originally formed in 1995, the group was modeled on the Dave Pell Octet and to a large extent sounded like a classic West Coast cool jazz group from 1956. Years later, the band greatly updated its sound, repertoire, and arrangements. With the addition of Michito Sanchez on Latin percussion, the Tentet was up to 11 pieces and sounded very much like a 21st century modern mainstream jazz band. On Wide Range, Norman's ensemble performs arrangements by Bob Florence, Kim Richmond, Roger Neumann, Jackson Stock, and Anthony Wilson. With the exception of Stock's chart for Gerry Mulligan's "Jeru," the group's roots in 1950s jazz are now much more beneath the surface. Even the reworkings of such songs as "Autumn Leaves," "Doxy," and "Little Niles" sound contemporary. The soloists, which include trumpeters Carl Saunders and Ron Stout, trombonist Andy Martin, guitarist Larry Koonse, and altoist Rusty Higgins among others, have no difficulty fitting into the more modern settings, and the modest Norman takes a rare tenor solo on "Lush Life." A highlight is an extended version of Johnny Richards' rarely performed "Cuban Fire." The modern writing, strong musicianship, and concise solos along with a spirited group feel make the more up-to-date music of the Phil Norman Tentet as charming and swinging as its earlier recordings. Recommended.
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AllMusic Review by Scott Yanow