By Gordon Jack
This is the fifth release by the Ira B. Liss Big Band, which has been based in southern California for the past four decades. To the plethora of soloists he usually has at his disposal the leader has added guest stars Eric Marienthal, Bob Mintzer and Holly Hofmann to bring a little extra magic to charts by Tom Kubis, Mike Abene, Mike Crotty and Peter Herbolzheimer.
The torch song You Don’t Know What Love Is has been transformed into an 80-bar-to-the-minute explosive outing for Christopher Hollyday on alto. There is some impressive altissimo work along the way in a solo that positively bristles with authority. The amazing Eric Marienthal, who is also heard with Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band, has Early Autumn all to himself. He caresses Ralph Burns’ lovely melody on a lyrical outing that climaxes with an unaccompanied coda. Janet Hammer was heard on the band’s 2013 CD It’s About Time. Her cute delivery and perfect diction call Nicki Parrott to mind and I Didn’t Know What Time It Was, Nature Boy and You Turn Me On Baby are perfect vehicles for her. The latter is a hip but sadly neglected Cy Coleman opus that Blossom Dearie used to sing. Incidentally Nature Boy benefits from some expressive alto flute by Holly Hoffman. Oleo is a feature for the saxes who shine on a section soli leading to half a chorus from each member of the team.
Bob Mintzer’s apposite quote on the sleeve accurately sums up the band’s approach:
– “Ira Liss is one of those special folk who keep the big band idiom alive and moving forward”.