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George Masso Tentet: At Long Last Love

Veteran trombonist/arranger George Masso’s 10-piece group sounds a lot like a hip dance band. Some of the leader’s 10 arrangements suggest a scaled-down version of the kind of conservative charts Woody Herman and others often used for dances. Here they serve mainly as vehicles for extensive soloing by the leader and an excellent group of improvisers that includes tenorist/clarinetist Dick Johnson, trumpeter Lou Colombo, guitarist Jon Wheatley and baritonist/clarinetist/flutist Mark Phaneuf. But among the arrangements of songs by such composers as Cole Porter, Sammy Kahn, Duke Ellington (“Black Butterfly”), Irving Berlin and Jerome Kern are some that attract attention to themselves because of Masso’s interesting voicings. One example is Porter’s “Ev’rytime We Say Goodbye,” which features a gently swinging trombone quartet with the baritone saxophone subbing for the fourth trombone.

Although the rhythm section operates more or less in a swing-oriented mode, the improvisations tend to blur the line between swing and modern jazz. Masso, who has been called the “Bobby Hackett of the trombone,” clearly owes allegiance to the earlier styles and Colombo’s playing displays elements of both. But Wheatley and the two saxophonists lean more toward the modern mainstream in varying degrees. They all have in common a high degree of competence and professionalism.

Originally Published