Rodger Fox Big Band
Last year the Rodger Fox Big Band accepted an invitation to play at the 60th Monterey Jazz Festival; along the way they sat in with appearances at famed clubs Yoshi’s in Oakland and the Arcadia Blues Club in L.A.
They also recorded this – the band’s most recent collection – in Los Angeles at United Studios.
It’s a great set of songs that finds the band in vital form from softly swirling balladry (Crystal Silence) to the funk-jazz workouts of the opening Flying Fox and the following title track, from deep instrumental cuts (The Healer) to songs featuring the band’s long-serving vocalist Ena Ferry (Baby Get Lost).
Everyone is given a chance to shine – wonderful ensemble playing is the essence of the band and the reason for the brand but there are some great solos here, Nick Granville (guitar) is in blistering form on the title track and Mike Booth’s Flugelhorn is a feature of Too Close. Ben Hunt (trumpet) and Oscar Laven (saxophone) both get to workout across Foolin’ Over You and for every famous composer featured (Chick Corea, Leonard Feather) there’s a track written for the band by a friend and guest-star (Bill Cunliffe) or a band member has been behind the arrangements – such as drummer Lauren Ellis’ fine job handling Michael League’s Quarter Master.
Ellis and her rhythm section chums Rory Macartney (bass), Anita Schwabe (keyboards) and Graville on guitar really do drive the band, providing nice shape to the different feels and flows here; there’s stately playing when needed and plenty of oomph as required.
Fox even steps up to take a (these days rare) solo himself on a delightful rendition of Tracy Chapman’s Give Me One Reason, the rapport between he and Erna Ferry always so palpable.
It’s a classy set from a hardworking band. Well worth hearing. And having.
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