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Billy Ross: Woody

With tributes like this one to bandleader Woody Herman, it’s okay to ask whether the tributor is adding anything to the contributions of the tributee. In this case, the answer is “not much.”

For example, multi-reedman Ross’s reading of Herman’s “Apple Honey” demonstrates tight section blowing in his own big band (consistent throughout the album), but the soloing, though technically impressive and historically evocative, says little about the players. Ross’s own tenor work on “P.S. I Love You” is nothing to write home about, rather sodden on the head and restricted in improvisation.

On tracks like “I Wonder” and “Keen and Peachy,” there’s a sort of amphetamine rush of ensemble sound but not much sense of where the excitement’s coming from.

Instrumental development on “Everywhere” seems rushed and incomplete.

Without greater originality and individuality, this kind of music is best heard in elevators and during phone holds, safe from scrutiny.

Originally Published