A busy arranger-composer in Los Angeles for the studios, films and television, Chris Waldon has also been leading a worthy if part-time jazz big band. On Full On!
six singers are featured on seven selections, but Walden's orchestra is never merely in the background. In fact, with a few exceptions, the singers can be thought of as guest soloists who take their turns in the spotlight along with the instrumental soloists and the ensemble.
The five instrumentals are mostly pretty outstanding. Whether it is the opening "Bailout," the catchy "Bada Bamba" or "Out Of Town" (one of the strongest originals to come from the Yellowjackets), the band has its chances to wail. Three different trombonist - Bob McChesney, Alex Iles and bass trombonist Bill Reichenbach - are showcased on at least a good portion of a song apiece. "Arturo," with guest trumpeter Arturo Sandoval, is surprisingly more of a feature for tenor saxophonist Brandon Fields with Sandoval just having a pair of fairly brief and mellow flugelhorn solos. The tenor battle between Fields and Rob Lockart on "Out Of Town" is particularly exciting.
Of the singers, Melanie Taylor is most memorable and not just because she is the only vocalist with two appearances. "I Can Cook Too" is a swinging tour-de-force, while on "Sir Duke" she hints at Ella Fitzgerald. Walden treats Stevie Wonder's piece as if it were a jazz standard, and the results are quite stirring. Courtney Fortune fares well on the retro swing original "Lost In The Memory," and Tierney Sutton is fine on the ballad "Only The Lonely" while Carol Welsman sounds quite joyful on "Hey Good Looking." But the real stars of Full On!
are Walden's arrangements and the enthusiastic big band.