Eternal Licks & Grooves
For nearly half a century arranger Bob Florence has been reinventing and re-composing, and he boasts two Emmy awards and 14 Grammy nominations. His latest release sends a clarion signal that his creativity is as sharp as ever. Utilizing a nucleus of 20 swingers who thrive on Hollywood studio sessions, plus trumpeter Carl Saunders and trombonist Scott Whitfield as guests, Florence doesn’t merely write charts, he thoroughly explores them: adding sonic layers that frequently turn bitonal, toying with rhythm for an occasional feel of 3-against-4, and interpolating related tunes to accommodate his whimsical humor. As with Bill Holman, everything Florence conceives either hits a groove or inevitably goes airborne.
The title track sets a pattern that contains all of the above. In a tribute to the Basie book, the opening agitated pedal point suggests Basie’s obsession with firmly establishing time before any concerted explosion. Hints of “Jumpin’ at the Woodside,” “One O’Clock Jump” and Basie’s famous closing treble cadence punctuate the chart. Kudos to Larry Lunnetta’s memorable trumpet solo—every bit as exciting as Saunders’ fluid statements in Florence’s reworking of “Clair de Lune,” reharmonized from its modal impressionism to a contemporary song. “Guiding Star” reveals Florence’s compositional chops as he grafts a lovely melody to Fred Manley’s poetic lyric. Underscoring the beauty of Florence’s line, Bob Carr’s baritone sax effectively “sings” the verse and chorus in juxtaposition to trombonist Bob McChesney’s improvisation on the bridge. The lilting jazz waltz, “Mirror Images,” another Florence original, is highlighted by a delicately swinging solo from soprano saxophonist Don Shelton, contrasted by drummer Peter Erskine’s propulsive gap-filling as the chart peaks at mid-point, then gently subsides.
There’s never a shortage of sidemen for Florence’s challenging rehearsal bands. He provides ample stretch-out room; they respond eloquently. Check out altoist Kim Richmond on “I’m Old Fashioned,” trombonist Whitfield on “Eternal Licks,” and trumpeter Ron Stout and guitarist Larry Koonse on “Appearing in Cleveland.”