Fire & Song
Marking the tenth year since Canadian trombonist/ composer/arranger Dave McMurdo has been able to keep his irregularly assembled 19-piece orchestra in fine fettle, if not in actual paying gigs, this two-disc set should alert many stateside and European ears to its potential as a festival attraction. McMurdo's orchestral concept is varied enough to embrace straightahead bop, blues, standard ballads, and alternately reflective and swinging in-house originals by not only himself, but trumpeter Mike Malone, pianist Don Thompson and guitarist Reg Schwager as well. On the solo scene, his own J.J.-spawned trombone is matched by equally inventive contributions from trumpeters Malone, Chase Sanborn and Kevin Turcotte, trombonists Rob Somerville and Terry Promane, tenormen Pat LaBarbera and Alex Dean, baritonist Perry White, altomen Mark Promane and Don Englert and pianist and guitarist Thompson and Schwager. Throughout the 18 tracks, the driving bass and drums are handled by Paul Novotny and Kevin Dempsey, but additional credit must also be given to the various writers' artful use of flutes and clarinets in the timbral mix, a texture largely ignored by other bands in the post-Kentonian era.