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The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra: The Way: Music of Slide Hampton

The Monday night big band at the Village Vanguard features an embarrassment of riches, from the soloists and most certainly to its arrangers. Imagine one book bulging with charts by Thad Jones, Bob Brookmeyer, Jim McNeely and Slide Hampton-it’s mind-blowing. And yet, in what amounts to some flattering nit-picking, there is something disappointing about the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra release The Way: Music of Slide Hampton (Planet Arts). There’s just too much of a good thing-the solo statements-and too little of an outstanding thing: Hampton’s arranging skills.

Charts are forever, but solos vary from gig to gig, and this collection of Hampton originals shows him at the height of his creative powers, with his trademark passion for colors and dynamic shadings. Recorded last December, the CD achieves its full-spectrum orchestral effects because of Hampton’s writing, from Billy Drewes’ flute down to Gary Smulyan’s bass clarinet.

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