South Florida Jazz Orchestra
Directed by bassist Chuck Bergeron, SFJO is already keeping some swanky company on its debut CD, including cameos by Arturo Sandoval, Ed Calle, Charles Pillow and Kevin Mahogany. Not at all surprising when you consider that the band was incubated at Arturo’s Jazz Club in Miami Beach. Sandoval’s dazzling virtuosity brightens “Blues Gumbo,” the opening track, but it’s clear that the regulars bring plenty to the table with composer/reedman Gary Lindsay’s propulsive arrangement and tasty solos by Mike Brignola on bari and pianist Brian Murphy.
Bergeron’s composing and arranging skills are no less imposing on the ensuing “Role Models,” ushered in by Brignola’s bass clarinet and John Yarling’s cymbals, and slowly brought to a ferocious boil by Pillow on soprano, prodded by Yarling. Mahogany absolutely revels in Bergeron’s swinging arrangement of “Nature Boy,” on which Gary Keller takes a fine tenor solo between the vocal bookends, without upstaging the full ensemble following in his wake.
Calle turns up late in the set with a burning tenor solo on “This Can’t Be Love,” sung by guest artist Dana Paul with a tangy patch of vocalese in unison with the saxes. The only blemish on the album is guest vocalist Nicole Yarling’s quavery treatment of “Blame It on My Youth,” but amid a mellow trombone solo by Dante Luciani, she acquits herself creditably on violin.