Doug Richards: It’s All in the Game
The Great American Music Ensemble
(VCUarts Web Page)
Doug Richards, Director-Arranger
Marty Nau: Lead Alto Sax, Soprano Sax, Clarinet
Jim Nesbit: Alto Sax, Soprano Sax, Baritone Sax,
Basset Horn, Bass Clarinet, Bassoon, Contra Bassoon
Skip Gailes: Tenor Sax, Soprano Sax, Alto Sax,
Flute, Bass Clarinet
John Winn: Tenor Sax, Soprano Sax, Alto Sax,
Clarinet, Bass Clarinet
Rob Holmes: Baritone Sax, Alto Sax, Flute, Bass Clarinet
Roy Muth: Lead Trumpet, Flugelhorn
Bob Ransom: Trumpet, Flugelhorn
John D’earth: Trumpet, Flugelhorn
Rob DeDominick: Trumpet, Flugelhorn
Jim McFalls: Lead Trombone
Dean Englert: Trombone, Euphonium
Lee Gause: Bass Trombone
Weldon Hill: Piano, Electric Piano
Victor Dvoskin: Bass
Howard Curtis: Drums, Percussion
René Marie on Vocals
Jon Faddis on Trumpet
Joe Kennedy, Jr., on Violin
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 24, 2016
This CD creates an extraordinary listening experience, with the crème de la crème of American composers, the likes of George Gershwin, Harold Arlen, Hoagy Carmichael, and Fats Waller. The expansive array of musicians that Professor Doug Richards, who started the Jazz Studies program at Virginia Commonwealth University, assembled in 2001, when these tracks were actually recorded, is listed above. Special guests, Jon Faddis on trumpet (who is reviewed on these pages, including Juilliard Jazz), the late Joe Kennedy, Jr. on violin, and René Marie on vocals, are generously featured in this seventeen-musician ensemble. You’ll hear church chimes in “April in Paris” (Vernon Duke/Yip Harburg) and propulsive brass in “Cherokee” (Ray Noble), and I must note that choosing the four featured tracks below was challenging. Doug Richards’ It’s All In the Game is a must have, new album, with soaring, urban musicality and ebullient, melodic energy. This is one classy CD..
All arrangements by Doug Richards.
#6 – West End Blues – Composed by Joe Oliver/Clarence Williams. The top talent of Jon Faddis on trumpet, Joe Kennedy, Jr. on violin, and Weldon Hill on piano expand this Bourbon Street ballad as if we were all sitting right there, drinking hurricanes. Faddis opens this lengthy track on a cappella trumpet, before Kennedy infuses a billowy, violin variation, adding blues onto blues. A muted trumpet later brings the music home, followed by a conversation of reeds and violin. One senses immediately that these mature, seasoned artists are giving it their all and having a great time doing so. Richards’ arrangement maximized the mastery.
#7 – I’ve Got the World On a String – Composed by Harold Arlen/Ted Koehler. René Marie, vocalist, adds her own seasoned sass to this upbeat, swinging standard. Marty Nau, on alto sax, sounds like a one-man ensemble, kicking it up a notch and merging with the full brass contingent for high power fireworks. Ms. Marie teases sexiness into each lyric, with confidence and charm. The track is danceable (as many are) and truly transporting. Howard Curtin, on drums, adds flourish, and, frankly, I just wanted to hear this song all over again.
#9 – September In The Rain – Composed by Harry Warren/Al Dubin. The full ensemble opens this track, showcasing Jim McFalls on trombone, Weldon Hill on piano, and Howard Curtis on drums. Victor Dvoskin is also spotlighted on bass, in a piano-bass duet, early on. I noted that a whole Broadway show could be created from this one track, it’s so lively and lyrical. McFalls’ trombone tells a dramatic tale, followed by a generous, percussive interlude. Hill’s piano, throughout, exudes stunning musicality. The track’s finale enhances the music with piano-bass-drums-muted trombone fusion.
#15 – Bird Blues – Composed by Charlie Parker. This final, 15th track blends Charlie Parker’s “Now’s the Time”, “Au Privave”, “Blues for Alice”, and “Billie’s Bounce”. Marty Nau, John Winn, Rob Holmes, and Skip Gailes, all on alto sax, bring their expertise to this masterful music. Dvorskin’s bass and Hill’s piano open the arrangement, with the four-man, alto sax contingent following in a blissful blaze. Each alto sax is featured on a unique variation, while the remaining three add harmony and contrast. This too, I will listen to again, and again.