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Karlton Hester’s Fillmore Jazz Preservation Big Band: Live at Herbst Theatre

It’s a shame the sound is so poor on this live recording by saxophonist-composer Karlton Hester’s northern California big band, since the performance was obviously relished by the audience. But often it’s impossible to hear the inner parts, which along with the occasional false entrance or clam, leaves a general impression of sloppiness. At times, for example, although one can clearly hear the lead alto and baritone saxophones, the other three saxes are barely audible. And it would have been helpful to know who wrote the arrangements (“Wind Machine” seems to be the unaltered Nestico tune and “April in Paris” the Basie version) as well as who the soloists, some quite good, are.

If it’s difficult to judge the quality of the ensemble because of the sound, instances of decent recording do offer some high points. Vocalist Denise Perrier comes through nicely and her sultry voice and tasteful performances of “‘S Wonderful,” “God Bless the Child” and “Wave” are delightful. Guest altoist John Handy was also recorded well and his virtuoso manipulation of “I Can’t Get Started,” accompanied only by the rhythm section, is a real pleasure. He’s also fine on “In a Mellow Tone” and “A Night in Tunisia.”

Originally Published