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March 2008

Pete McGuinness Jazz Orchestra
First Flight
Summit

Opening with the shouting title track, the 17-piece Pete McGuinness Jazz Orchestra announces its presence on the New York City scene with the bright, tight ensemble work and solid solo efforts one expects. First Flight, however, tends to offer precision rather than a fresh sound, which might be expected considering that the band has only been in existence for roughly a year and a half.

Trombonist McGuinness, the band’s chief soloist and a scat singer of some skill who provides vocal evidence on two of the CD’s nine tracks, has assembled an aggregation with both power and subtlety. The McGuinness-penned opener leads off with solos by trumpeter Chris Rogers, tenor saxophonist Tom Christensen and the leader, all nicely conceived. That’s followed by McGuinness scatting his way through Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile,” with alto saxophonist Dave Pietro taking a solo turn. Up next is a tasteful feature for McGuinness on Wayne Shorter’s “Infant Eyes.” The Ivan Lins tune “Começar de Novo” offers a solo outing by pianist Mike Holober.

The remaining five works are McGuinness originals, with the trombonist Holober and Rogers, this time on flugelhorn, in the spotlight. “Chase Scene” has solos by alto saxophonist Charles Pillow, trumpeter Bill Mobley, trombonist Steve Armour and drummer Scott Neumann. Tenor saxophonist Jason Rigby and Mobley, on flugelhorn, are featured on “Spring Song.” There’s a bit of fun on “The Tricksters” with the trombone section’s Armour, Mike Chistianson, Bruce Eidem and Jeff Nelson having turns at bat, as well as a brief effort by bassist Andy Eulau. The album closes with the second McGuinness vocal and instrumental solos by baritone saxophonist Dave Rickenberg and Eulau.

This young orchestra’s music shows much promise and well-crafted arrangements by the leader. Perhaps the band’s sophomore recording will live up to the groundwork of this album.

Originally published in March 2008
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