Steve Wiest’s jazz education includes a master’s degree from the University of North Texas and five years as arranger and featured trombonist with Maynard Ferguson. On his debut album as a leader, he demonstrates his mastery of his instrument as well as his virtuosity and expansive imagination as a composer and arranger. Five of the eight charts are lengthy originals, but even the three standards (“Cheek to Cheek,” “I Concentrate on You,” “On Green Dolphin Street”) sound more like fully developed compositions than mere arrangements. Although the writing is sophisticated, it’s always tuneful and inviting. And Wiest’s liner notes add to the music’s interest. For example, on “Cheek to Cheek” he “wanted to see how far a shuffle groove with a typical F7-E flat7 chord motion could fit the melody” and on the 12-bar blues “Cerulean 12,” he “took it one step further…and used a twelve-tone ‘row’ to generate the melody…”
A powerhouse rhythm section of drummers Bob Rummage or Dave Bayles, guitarist Mike Standal, pianist Matt Harris and bassist Bob Bowman anchor the precise and swinging ensemble, led by former Basie lead trumpeter Mike Williams. Although Wiest is the primary soloist, others make excellent contributions.