Bill Watrous, Pete Christlieb & The Gary Urwin Jazz Orchestra
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While it is nearly impossible for jazz musicians to tour much at all as a big band, from time to time, units are assembled for memorable studio sessions such as the ones heard on Gary Urwin's Kindred Spirits. Most of the leader's charts were written to showcase veterans Bill Watrous (trombone) and Pete Christlieb (tenor sax, though he plays clarinet and flute as well in the ensemble passage), while he gathered some of the best players around Southern California as well. Jerry Goldsmith's rarely heard "Theme from 'Chinatown'" benefits from Urwin's superb scoring and Watrous' warm soloing. Urwin adds a nice touch to "Girl Talk," a swinging favorite from Count Basie's songbook, while the snappy treatment of "Beautiful Love" is another gem. The addition of harp and a trombone choir behind Watrous gives a new dimension to the old chestnut "Danny Boy." The touching finale is a subtle trio chart with pianist Christian Jacob setting up Christlieb and Watrous with a lush opening chorus and superb accompaniment.
This may be the finest big band since the Tonight Show Band headed by Doc Severinsen. Soloists Bill Watrous (my all-time favorite jazz trombonist) and tenor sax man Pete Christlieb are in top form and lead trumpeter Wayne Bergeron is always "right on." But, the centerpiece of this album are the arrangements. This is large ensemble writing of the highest caliber, played by the best musicians, wonderfully recorded. Track 4, Beautiful Love, should be nominated for a Grammy itself. Buy this and play it loud!
If this isnt the best Jazz big band album of the year, I dont know which one is. Tight, crisp, great solos and it swings.
Watrous is the best! The phrasing, tone, intonation...can go on and on about the virtuosity. The best part is the emotion that his music brings. Even when I play his records for non jazz lovers they love it. Wish that Tiger of San Pedro was on iTunes.
Born: June 8, 1939 in Middletown, CT
Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s