Sunday, August 21, 2016

Uh Oh! It's Lou Caputo Not So Big Band

Lou Caputo Not So Big Band
Uh Oh!
JazzCat 47 Records

Lou Caputo's Not So Big Band is a working big band that has 12 pieces, not the typical sixteen piece or larger variety. It has been together for over ten years playing various venues in New York City. Caputo is a multi-instrumentalist heard here on various saxophones and flute who has played in various show bands ranging from Motown to Harry Connick Jr, as well as Howard Johnson's 5 Bari Saxophone Group (Beartones), Warren Smith's Jazz Composer's Orchestra and the Ellington and Basie bands.

Others in the Not So Big Band include percussionist Eddie Montalvo (Grammy nominee, Latin Grammy winner, Fania All-Stars), saxophonist Virginia Mayhew (Saxophone Journal Saxophonist of the Year), trumpeter John Eckart (performed with Toshiko Akiyoshi and Lee Konitz), legendary bassist and jazz author Bill Crow (performed with Gerry Mulligan and Phil Woods), Geoffrey Burke (performs with Harry Connick Jr.) and percussionist and vibraphonist Warren Smith who has performed with everyone from John Cage and Gil Evans to Barbra Streisand. I am most familiar with Smith's work and also guitarist Joel Perry who I met decades ago in Buffalo (and who also spent years playing second guitar behind legendary blues man, Johnny 'Clyde' Copeland).

This is a marvelous swinging modern big band recording with some terrific renditions of jazz staples from the pens of Joe Henderson, Leo Wright, Jack DeJohnette, Oliver Nelson, Bill Crow, Chick Corea Tadd Dameron, Dexter Gordon, Mary Lou Williams and others. The disc kicks off with a driving rendition of Henderson's "Black Nile," that Caputo takes the first solo with his robust baritone sax followed by Perry's fleet guitar against Geoffrey Burke's arrangement. Trombonist Jason Ingram contributed and arranged the Latin jazz original "Los Cielos De Ayer," with Caputo on soprano, with other solos from trumpeter Dave Smith and guitarist Perry. Don Elliot's composed title track was apparently a popular number by the Nutty Squirrels. The loping groove and sound of the reeds give it a somewhat cool flavor with Warren Smith taking the first solo on vibes, followed by Kohn Eckert's nice middle range trumpet, Caputo's brawny baritone and a short bass solo from Crow.

Leo Wright's "Midnight in Berlin," is a  favorite selection with the late Chris White's arrangement and Caputo's outstanding alto (suggestive of John Handy) lending this a Mingus-like feel, with pianist Don Smith and Warren Smith adding solos. A Caribbean carnival feel marks the ebullient rendition of DeJohnette's "Festival" with Caputo's airy flute showcased along with the alto sax of Geoffrey Burke, drummer Mike Campenni before guitarist Perry's acoustic guitar leads to the close. Ryan Krewer's arrangement for "Stolen Moments" gives it a fresh sound as does Caputo's use of soprano and the performance also has Dale Turk's tuba solo. Chick Corea's "Guijara," is another latin flavored number with Caputo on flute (with trumpet like lines) followed by Perry's fiery electric guitar (evoking a jazzy Santana perhaps) and then some wonderful trombone from Ingram (set against Chris Rinaman's marvelous arrangement).

Bill Whited provided arrangements for the lovely rendition of Tadd Dameron's "If You Could See Me Now" (with marvelous ballad playing by Caputo on the baritone) and Dexter Gordon's "Fried Bananas." with Caputo on soprano, Dan Stein on piano and Virginia Mayhew on tenor sax. Virginia Mayhew arranged the closing performance, Mary Lou Williams' "Busy Busy Busy." Caputo is a superb player, and his Not So Big band is a sterling aggregation with a marvelous book, terrific arrangements as well as soloists and a marvelous rhythm section. The result is this excellent recording.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is a video of this outstanding band.

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