Taking the Long Way Home
It took Bud Shank 79 years and a day to get to lead a big band. Shank was born on May 27, 1926, and fronted a big band for the first time on May 28, 2005. In the meantime, his alto saxophone had enhanced several famous large bands and innumerable small ones. His new role resulted from an invitation by the Los Angeles Jazz Institute to lead a big band at a celebration of the 40th anniversary of Stan Kenton’s Los Angeles Neophonic Orchestra. And a fine ensemble it was, consisting of some of the city’s best players, plus Shank as featured soloist, performing arrangements by Manny Albam, Bob Cooper, Bob Florence and Mike Barone. The musicians nailed the often challenging charts like the pros they are.
Over the years, Bud Shank has developed constantly as an improviser, with some of his most recent work among his best. He continues to be a formidable saxophonist, passionate and swinging with a distinctive sound and manner. And he’s practically the only soloist here. Trumpeter Carl Saunders contributes three exhilarating choruses before sharing one with Bud on Barone’s galloping “Limes Away,” and tenorist Doug Webb engages in equally steaming exchanges with Shank on “The Night Has a Thousand Eyes.” But other than that, it’s all Bud and the band.