Out of Hand
A few years ago, guitarist Peter Hand led a big band, featuring tenor saxophonist Houston Person on a wonderful live recording on Savant “The Wizard of Jazz: A Tribute to Harold Arlen.” The Peter Hand Big Band returns with a new studio recording, also on Savant, “Out of Hand.” Again, Person is present (on three selections), and a number of top-notch players are heard here including saxophonists Bruce Williams, Kenny Berger, Don Braden, and Ralph LaLama; trumpeters Eddie Allen, John Bailey and Valery Ponomarev; trombonists John Mosca and Vincent Gardner; and a terrific rhythm section of pianist James Weidman, bassist Harvie S and drummer Steve Johns.
Person is featured on three selections, a swinging rendition of Bobby Hebb’s “Sunny”; the classic Harold Arlen torch song “Blues in the Night”; and the Strayhorn/Ellington classic “Day Dream.” Person brings his warm, rich tone and the melodic quality of his improvisations set against Hand’s wonderful arrangements as well as Hand's own clean, crisp guitar. On the opening Sunny,” trumpeter Ponomarev takes one of several sharp-toned solos that exhibit an authority similar to that of Person. Selections like these evoke a classic Oliver Nelson Big Band album “Live in Los Angeles” that featured guitarist Mel Brown on a couple selections as well as Nelson’s arrangements for some of Wes Montgomery’s Verve recordings.
Hand is a wonderful guitarist in the vein of a Montgomery, Kenny Burrell, Grant Green and the like with a definite blues sensibility. Hand’s original “Out of Print Blues” (called Out of Hand Blues” in Donald Elfman’s liner notes) is a nice swinging blues with strong solos from Bruce Williams, Harvie S and Vincent Gardner in addition to the leader. Another Hand original is the waltz “Listen to Your Heart” with its effective use of muted brass, flute, flugelhorn and soprano saxophone with Braden taking a nice soprano sax solo set against the riffing horns while Ponomarev is in more melodic vein.
Hand displays a romantic sensibility of a lovely ballad “Barbara Rose,” while the up-tempo “The Elevator” is a feature for LaLama’s robust and forceful playing and will evoke the Ellington classic “Cottontail.” After the light Latin groove of “Night Echo” (Hand, Bailey, and Weidman stand out here); we are treated the splendid “Day Dream,” before Hand enlivens “Summertime” with his arrangement in 6/4 and employment of flute, clarinet, bass clarinet and muted brass to provide musical colors for Allen’s vibrant trumpet and Weidman’s piano. It is a superb close to this splendid big band recording.
I received my review copy as a download from a publicist. This review originally appeared in the March-April 2015 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 359). Peter Hand Big Band has a new CD out that I will be reviewing shortly. Here is "Sunny" from "Out of Hand."