Big band jazz in full swing - Mike Waldrop's debut as a big band leader is a soaring good listen. Waldrop has recently distinguished himself as an educator at Eastern Washington University, but he spent plenty of time paying his dues as a working musician/drummer in New York and Chicago before embarking on his academic career. While at the University of North Texas, Waldrop polished his big band durmming with the One O'Clock Lab Band. He also spent ten years performing with Jack Cooper's Memphis-based Jazz Orchestra of the Delta. While this is Waldrop's first album as a big band leader, he is clearly a seasoned and experienced pro.
In addition to his drumming and vibraphone playing, Time Within Itself
shows the depth of his creativity by featuring arrangements of several of his original compositions. Jack Cooper served as music director of the CD, fleshing out arrangements of Waldrop's tunes and providing a few originals. The arrangements and original works crackle with energy and clarity. This is largely due to a distinguished cast of musicians including guitarist Jimi Tunnel, whose visceral and soaring solos (a la Allan Holdsworth or John McLaughlin) give a fusion edge to the band. Jose Rossy, former percussionist with Weather Report, also helps give the band a fusion tinge in such tunes as "Munich Musings."
All that being said, the bottom line is that this band can swing! That is nowhere clearer than on the barn burner "Twisted Barb," which closes the album. Also, in full swing (pun intended) on this track is Waldrop's finessed and fluid drumming; tasty soloing and impressive flourishes round out his prowess for swing feel and kicking the band. The drumming is prominent and outstanding throughout and perfectly mixed for clarity and support. Waldrop's vibes playing is also stellar and especially lush on the ballad "Inner Truth."
The achievement of this album is even more impressive when you take into account that is was recorded in a single day at Crystal Clear Sound in Dallas, the studio often used for big band recordings by the UNT One O'Clock Lab Band. Don't miss this stellar big band debut from Mike Waldrop!