June 17, 2024


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CD review: Ian Charleton Big Band – A Fresh Perspective 2021: Video, CD cover

Ian Charleton is a graduate of the famous University of North Texas Jazz Studies program, and the university big band sound has never left him. He arranged and composed for the Navy band for 20 years, eventually becoming Head of Academics at the Navy School of Music (yes, there is one). A Fresh Perspective is a self-produced release featuring a roster of well-rehearsed professional musicians running down Charleton’s swinging conventional big band charts.

This ensemble is clearly a notch above the average university big band. The arrangements, however, are your standard college fare. There is little mixing of instruments across sections to make distinctive sound colors in the Duke Ellington tradition. The emphasis on straight sectional playing still satisfies because it is accomplished with tight unison work, but the approach comes off as a bit dated. There is nothing cutting-edge here, by design, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Charleton himself conducts but doesn’t play. The standout soloists are Kerry Moffit on trumpet and flugelhorn, John Lloyd on trombone, and Richard Garcia on alto sax. The rhythm section suffers from some fretboard buzz on the bass and some meandering piano solo work, but drummer Bob Habib holds things down beautifully with crisp accompaniment and flawless accents, never overplaying or distracting from the ensemble. The weakest link is vocalist Emily Charleton, whose intonation and hammy delivery just aren’t right for this style of music. As much as I support musicians putting out their own self-funded CDs, it’s still a good idea to have an outside producer or label executive who’ll deliver the bad news.

The arrangements are a pleasure. “Stardust” is a song that every arranger wants to take on sooner or later, like actors want to play Hamlet, and Charleton takes a modern approach that is more Thad Jones/Mel Lewis than Artie Shaw. “Tea for Two” gets an imaginative and introspective arrangement, taken much slower than usual (this is decaffeinated tea). I’m not sure the staccato rhythms inherent in the melody really work for the easy swaying feel here, but it’s helped by Bart Kuebler’s Brubeck-like piano work. Another standard given an unusual treatment is “When Sonny Gets Blue,” which is played as an up-tempo salsa. This is the only track that Charleton over-arranges. All of the Latin big band clichés are here, like a catalog for arrangement students.

  1. 1 West 67th Street
  2. Sunday Morning
  3. A Fresh Perspective
  4. Everything I’ve Got
  5. Stardust
  6. El Otono
  7. Blue Skies
  8. Tea for Two
  9. When Sunny Gets Blue
  10. Party on Park

Ian Charleton: composer/conductor;

Mark Oates: trumpet;

Pete Sutorius: trumpet;

Mark Nixon: trumpet;

Kerry Moffit: trumpet;

Richard Garcia: saxophone, alto;

Jason Hammers: saxophone;

Keith Philbrick: saxophone, tenor;

Michael Ferrante: saxophone, tenor;

David Fatek: saxophone, baritone;

John Lloyd: trombone;

Lisa Drefke: trombone;

Carl Lundgren: trombone;

Dandrick Glenn: trombone, bass;

Bart Kuebler: piano;

Wes Wagner: guitar;

Ryan Persaud: bass;

Bob Habib: drums;

Emily Charleton: voice / vocals

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