Following Phil Kelly's last big band effort for Origin Records, Convergence Zone
, which earned a Grammy nomination, the Bellingham, Washington resident is back with Ballet of the Bouncing Beagles
. Phil, who formerly did arrangements for the Tonight Show band, wrote (with the exception of Limehouse Blues), produced, and arranged all the tracks on this CD. The majority of the band is from the Northwest with the exception of legendary saxophonist, Jerry Dodgion from New York, and Dallas saxists, Pete Brewer, and Randy Lee.
Play Tonic Buds, based on Just Friends, comes out swinging. Vern Sielert jumps in with a strong trumpet solo and Dan Marcus' trombone follows. The entire band's ensemble playing is great, spurred on by drummer, Gary Hobbs. Limehouse Blues is taken at a relaxed pace and Jerry Dodgion's alto solo shows his mastery. Bill Ramsay, on Bari sax, is also prominent. The title track, inspired by Kelly's beagles, has a sophisticated jaunty feel, and the interplay between the reeds highlights Kelly's writing skills for this band. Of current West Coast bands only Bill Holman's matches Kelly's for creativity.
Kelly brings New Orleans funk to Ewe Doo on Bubba's Shoux, with drummer Gary Hobbs providing a gumbo backbeat. Seattle trumpeter Jay Thomas, who needs more exposure outside of the Northwest, gets the primary solo on this track but Dan Marcus on muted trombone also deserves praise.
Other winning tracks that show Kelly's versatility include the Brazilian flavored Rainshadow; B D Bunz, which has a big city theme feel that you could imagine being featured as a television show theme from the 70s; the Cuban big band with percussion, Estos Frijoles; and lastly, Grover, dedicated to the late Grover Washington. Grover recreates Washington's sensual smooth jazz vibe through Travis Ranney's soprano sax and the electric piano with string accompaniment.
Phil Kelly has another winner here. There is something for everyone who enjoys relaxed, yet swinging big band arrangements. Oh, and those beagle pups on the CD booklet front cover are adorable?.