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June 1997

Blue Wisp Big Band
Rollin' With Von Ohlen and Live at Carmelo's
Sea Breeze

This reissue combines two albums recorded in 1984 by Cincinnati's Blue Wisp Band, a swinging outfit propelled by the drums of John Von Ohlen and featuring, among others, trumpeter Tim Hagens (now known for his albums on Blue Note). Chief arrangers Al Kiger (trumpet) and Larry Dickson (baritone saxophone) are fond of Thad Jones-like voicings and rhythms, and the band is more straightahead than ethereal. The group pays its respects to Ellington (as all big bands should) in the form of "Sophisticated Lady," "Rockin' In Rhythm," and "Bloodcount." Among other standards, it also plays "Manteca," "In the Still Of The Night," and "Footprints"-quite a spread in all.

There's plenty to rejoice about in the skill of the ensemble and also the soloists: Hagens, Kiger, Dickson, trombonist Bill Gemmer, pianist Steve Schmidt, alto saxophonist Mike Andres, and others. For solid modern-mainstream big band work, this reissue documents one of jazz's better "local" ensembles. Definitely worth a listen.

Originally published in June 1997
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