Most exciting big band disc I've heard this year! I'm not even sure at what point a fairly good-sized ensemble - in this case ten players - officially becomes a big band. But the bottom line here is that Hamilton follows the contrapuntal writing style of arranger Bill Holman, just about the best in the business in my estimation. And thru careful vice leading and harmonies, plus shifting around some of the ten players? part, Hamilton often creates the feeling of a much larger band - even the impact of the horn section sometimes becomes as powerful as the Count Basie Band.
Only three of the 13 tracks here are not arranged by Hamilton, who plays trombone but not in the band. He is actually Dr. Doug Hamilton, head of surgery at two hospitals by day and jazzman by night. He founded the Brass Connection in the 80s, inspired by the Kenton Orchestra, with five trombonists and a five-piece rhythm section. In l993 he founded this ten-piece band, using top players from U.S. military jazz ensembles such as Army Blues. His intelligent arrangements and the expert playing of all ten members makes this disc a winner and fully the equal of the very best really big band.
An example of the creativity in evidence here is the handling of My Funny Valentine. You don?t even hear the tune itself until the last part - the majority of the improvisation is at the beginning of the track. Modal Blues is a kick with its modal harmonies and solos by both trombone and baritone horn. Guitarist Jim Roberts is a standout on some of the tracks, such as his solos on Sonny Rollins? Oleo and on the ornate setting of Scarborough Fair. The more modest size of the band ensures that all the instruments are cleanly and clearly reproduced, even during the bigger blasts.