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October 2005

Tommy Newsom and his Octo-Pussycats
Tommy Newsom and his Octo-Pussycats

For his latest album, the former Tonight Show tenor saxophonist, arranger, and assistant conductor Tommy Newsom put together an excellent eight-piece band with drummer Sherrie Maricle, bassist Noriko Ueda, alto saxophonist/flutist Karolina Strassmayer and baritone saxophonist Lisa Parrott of Maricle's Diva Jazz Orchestra, along with cornetist Warren Vache, trombonist Wayne Andre and pianist Derek Smith. They offer a delightful mainstream combination of well-crafted arrangements and first-class improvisations.

Among the main soloists, the leader plays relaxed, nicely developed Four Brothers-style choruses, the veterans Vache and Smith swing with consistent surefootedness and the relative newcomer Strassmayer wails from a passionate hard-bop perspective. The latter translates her fiery conception to the flute on Johnny Mandel's Latin classic "Cinnamon and Clove," where Smith offers a punchy, rhythmically dead-on chorus of his own and Vache displays his warm and lyrical side. Among the highlights are Newsom's own "Titter Pipes," where he and Strassmayer successfully assume the roles originally played by Zoot Sims and Phil Woods during Benny Goodman's 1962 Soviet Union tour (Newsom was also a member of the saxophone section), and Duke Ellington's "Come Sunday," which features Parrott's expressive baritone and Vache's nimble mute work.

Originally published in October 2005
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