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Rob McConnell and The Boss Brass: Even Canadiens get the Blues

With nine Concord Jazz releases behind him since 1991 alone, this latest in the 28-year-old, Toronto-based orchestra’s history is the hottest and most jazz-oriented of them all. McConnell himself contributed four new charts for this recording: the opening “Blue Tag,” with solos by the leader, tenorman Rick Wilkins and fluegelhornist Guido Basso; the title tune, an extended form swinger featuring trumpeter Steve McDade and tenorman Alex Dean; “The Clarinet is Black and Blue,” a showcase for the reed section and soloist Moe Koffman; and “The Shuffle Boogie Swamp Groove Blues,” a self-descriptive piece that alternates Doug Riley’s funky Hammond B-3 with powerful ensemble riffing and solos by McConnell, Dean and fluegelhornist John McLeod. The leader also provided an imaginative arrangement of Gary McFarland’s sensual “Blue Hodge,” replete with trenchant solo statements by Dean and guitarist Ed Bickert, who also shines, along with Ellingtonian-styled trumpeter Kevin Turcotte, on Wilkins’ down-home “The Country Blues.”

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