The second album by the superb Mark Taylor / Steve Fidyk Big Band was taped November 2, '06, at Blues Alley in Washington, D.C., and it lays bare a sizable chunk of the band's remarkable power and finesse. Much of the muscle is provided by drummer Fidyk, working in concert with the other sections, the finesse by composer/arranger Taylor who wrote three of the album's eleven selections, co-wrote "Brush Taps" with Louie Bellson, and arranged everthing save "When Johnny Comes Marching Home," whose seductively off-center treatment is by Fidyk. While three of Taylor's compositions- "Brush Taps," "Full Count," "Gorillaman Blues"- have been repossessed from the band's earlier album, it's interesting to hear them played for an audience. As before, the ensemble is comprised for the most part of service personnel from the Army Blues and Airmen of Note, with baritone saxophonist Scott Silbert representing the Navy Commodores. The rhythm section (Fidyk, pianist Tony Nalker, bassist Jim Roberts) are all Blues, while the lead trumpers are Liesl Whitaker (Blues and Brian MacDonald (Airmen). Silbert is showcased on the ballad "My One And Only Love," Nalker on Irving Berlin's "What'll I Do," trombonist Jim McFalls on Herbie Hancock's "Maiden Voyage," alto saxophonist Bill Linney on Sterie Wonder's "My Cherie Amour," Fidyk (with trumpeter Craig Fraedrich) on "Brush Taps."
The concert opens with a classic tenor duel between Joseph Henson and Tedd Baker on the dynamic "Full Count," and closes with trombonist Matt Niess and trumpeter Graham Breedlove locking horns on the Basie-like "Gorillaman Blues." Fraedrich and Baker are the solosits on Taylor's buoyant "Bradley's Bop House," Breedlove (muted) and Silbert on Charlie Parker's upbeat "Anthropology" (whose sax soli, replicating Bird's solo is awesome). If the band is spectacular (and it is), the recorded sound is no less so; in fact, it is uncommonly clear and well-balanced for a concert date. Recommended without pause.