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May 2009

Buselli-Wallarab Jazz Orchestra
Where or When
Owl Records

Trombonist Brent Wallarab is a truly wondrous arranger, and together with trumpet/flugelhorn ace Mark Buselli, he co-leads a 12-piece band that wraps itself around each of his charts with luscious liquefaction. The B-W bandstand is also graced with half a dozen compelling soloists. Aside from the leaders, Mike Stricklin on soprano sax (“This Can’t Be Love”), Rob Dixon on tenor (“My Foolish Heart”), Tom Meyer on bari (“Watch What Happens”), and Luke Gillespie on piano (“Avalon”) are all concise eloquence.

Unfortunately, the ensemble must also wrap itself around the variable vocals of Everett Greene and Cynthia Layne on 11 of the 13 tracks. After a remarkable recording debut at age 64 a decade ago, the bloom has departed from Greene’s voice, particularly at the lower end where he once evoked pleasanter memories of Billy Eckstine. The top is holding up better with new hints of Joe Williams, but Greene is best on “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face” and “My Funny Valentine,” where the laryngeal weathering is a subtle asset.

Layne has a far fresher instrument, but its loveliness is tentatively lavished on “L-O-V-E” and “Avalon” with an unyielding grip on the beat. “Teach Me Tonight,” the single Buselli chart here, confirms the vast potential that the pop chanteuse has when she lets go and lets loose.

Originally published in May 2009
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