Jazz Trumpet Player Rich Szabo and his Big Band

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Cadence Magazine Review

Rich Szabo



1. Smooth/2. Take The "A" Train/3. Manhattan At Dusk/4. The County Bass Line/5. Campanilla/6. The Lady Is A Tramp/7. Tequila/8. Ikyat/9. 1987 B.C./ 10. How High The Moon/ 11. My True Blue Oti/ 12. Crazy Rhythm/ 13. Azafran/ 14. It's A Beautiful Day In the Neighborhood (Theme from Mr. Roger's Neighborhhod)/ 15. Shoo Fly Pie/ 16. Skeeters' Blues

Rich Szabo's big band is a hard charging, fully contemporary ensemble that eschews flirtation with fusion and other flavors of the month. - a dash of funk and a strong Latin feel pervade many of the pieces on this album, as rightly befits a New York-rooted ensemble.  Szabo actually weighs in as an arranger on two tracks only (Tequila and "A" Train), leaving the lion's share of the honors in the original composition/charts department to tenorman Larry Puentes, whose work comes out well on all counts.

All of the charts on Manhattan At Dusk are high caliber - Puentes has a special fondness for complex reed section work (and for Toshiko Akiyoshi-like flute lead intros) and consistantly-shifting tempi, and he often pits the brass against the saxes in very effective ways.  Three of the best Puentes-crafted custs are "How High The Moon", "Azafran", and (believe it or not) "It's A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood", which is a very up and hard-swinging "Mr. Rogers' theme song featuring a cutting competition between altoists Vinci and Kirchner, who successfully segue from the main theme to the changes of "A Foggy Day" and back again with great swagger and savvy.  As might be expected, Puentes' originals are out of the Latin jazz mold (as well as being very funky - he likes slap bass).  Puentes solos on one cut only ("Manhattan At Dusk") and frankly it's a shame that we don't get to hear more of him.

Szabo (who sounds a lot like the young Maynard Ferguson) is of the let's-keep-'em-rockin' school of thought - witness his inclusion of "Tequila", which actually comes off quite well.  (Yeah, it's goofy, and admitting that you like the song might be tantamount to saying that you also dig "Wipeout", but this listener found the track to be a real kick.  Guess there's no accounting for taste...).

It should be duly noted that everyone in the ensemble plays hard and well - Ken Sebesky provides some terrific fill and some nice solos, as does pianist Biff Hannon...

Although there are some repetitive cuts on Manhattan At Dusk (and the standards, on the whole, do not come off with a lot of freshness), most any fan of hard bop with a Latin touch should be able to get a lot of listening pleasure from this album.

Ellen Collison

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