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08/24/11

Allan Vaché with the Central Florida Chamber Orchestra
Look to the Sky
Arbors Records

Clarinetist Allan Vaché was adhering to something of a jazz tradition when he decided it was time for him to record with strings. On his new album, Vaché joins nearly all of jazz’s great (and not so great) players who have made at least one album with strings, whether a full orchestra or a quartet. Vaché employs a group of nine woodwind and string players, assembled by his winds-playing wife, Vanessa, and named the Central Florida Chamber Orchestra. (This disc is technically the group’s debut.) Vaché (brother of jazz trumpeter Warren) also leads a quintet comprising pianist Jeff Phillips (rousing throughout), guitarist Bob Leary, bassist Charlie Silva (outstanding in spots) and consistently solid drummer Ed Metz Jr. Vanessa Vaché guests on bass clarinet on “Blues for Kenny,” and Tammy Georgine sings credibly on “Moanin’ Low” and “Our Love Is Here to Stay.”

The repertoire is fairly stimulating, containing some warhorses from the Great American Songbook but also more recent material from songwriters like Jimmy Webb (“Didn’t We”), Sergio Mendes (“So Many Stars”), Burt Bacharach and Hal David (“Alfie”) and Vaché himself (“Blues for Kenny,” dedicated to the late clarinet master Kenny Davern).

Vaché is a fine swing/mainstream player with tonal issues. Though sometimes nicely mellow and warm, when he goes “upstairs,” swings hard or increases intensity, he tends to develop a thin, piercing sound. Though annoying, it’s not so bad or frequent as to ruin what otherwise is an entertaining album with more than a few excellent songs and performances.

Originally published in September 2011
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