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The Buddy Collette Big Band: Live at El Camino College

This recording was not released when it was made in 1990 and the original tapes subsequently got destroyed. Backup tapes deteriorated somewhat between then and now, and the apparent result is that one track ends unexpectedly with a quick fade and another begins well into the arrangement. Still, there’s over an hour and 17 minutes of music, played with enthusiasm by fine Los Angeles-area musicians, among them guitarist Al Viola, saxophonist Ray Reed, trombonists Garnett Brown and George Bohanon, and tubist Red Callender. The West Coast veteran Buddy Collette stars on tenor, clarinet and flute.

Collette wrote most of the tunes, the exceptions being Herbie Hancock’s “Theme From Harlem Nights” and four pieces from the Duke Ellington library. Collette, Brown or saxophonist John Stephens arranged them.

As might be expected from a live concert, a few less-than-perfect ensemble moments are evident, but the live ambiance compensates. Solos are uneven in quality, but fine overall. Collette is at his best on the uptempo “Emaline,” where he employs the Getz-like sound and style that characterized his playing in the 1950s, and as featured soloist on the gorgeous Hancock ballad. Also noteworthy is Cheryl Conley’s delightful vocal work on “Take the ‘A’ Train” and “Satin Doll.”

Originally Published