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Bill Mobley and Jazz Orchestra: Live at Smalls Vol. 1

The Memphis jazz mob is deep in the house on this one. In addition to Memphian trumpeter-leader, and in several notable spots on this disc arranger, Bill Mobley, this date boasts the Tennessee piano quartet of Harold Mabern, James Williams, and Donald Brown, plus honorary Memphian (via Greenwood, MS; he went to school in Memphis) Mulgrew Miller as guest soloists. Lest you determine that this must be a piano-heavy date, it also boasts guest saxophonist Billy Pierce and vocalist Miles Griffith.

With all that solo power one might be lulled into the impression that though advertised as a big band date, this is actually more of a large ensemble framework for soloists. Such is not the case; the six pieces are originals from the pens of Mobley and his guests, and there is a sense of real composition on this date. Rather than simply cut to the chase with cursory ensemble heads hurriedly ripped off to get to the meaty soloists, this a tried and true big band date that is at times reminiscent of the old Thad Jones-Mel Lewis principles, particularly in the way the brass and reed sections interact and dialogue in the band passages.

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