For a fellow who practices law for a living, Gary Urwin is one heck of an arranger. His charts for his third CD, though solidly in the modern-mainstream-big-band tradition, use traditional elements in fresh, imaginative ways, such as ending Wayne Shorter’s “E.S.P.” with a sudden and unexpected accelerando. Urwin wrote the arrangements expressly to feature the extraordinary soloists Pete Christlieb on tenor and Bill Watrous on trombone, and they more than do them justice. Christlieb is a whiz of a player and he’s in fine form here, whether sailing through the changes of “Lester Leaps In” or caressing the melody of “I’ll Be Seeing You.” And Watrous employs his phenomenal technique and lush sound for some hard swinging on up-tempo tunes like “Beautiful Love” and a warm expressiveness on ballads like “Danny Boy.”
With saxophonist Kim Richmond, trumpeter Wayne Bergeron and trombonist Charlie Loper as section leaders and a rhythm section of pianist Christian Jacob, guitarist Frank Browne, bassist Trey Henry and drummer Ralph Razze, the personnel couldn’t be more illustrious. And in spite of the focus on Christlieb and Watrous, a few other players, especially trumpeter Bobby Shew and pianist Jacob, shine in solos of their own.