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Vaughn Nark: Flying High

This aptly named recording features trumpeter Vaughn Nark in the company he loves best-the U.S. Air Force’s Airmen of Note big band, a group he has been associated with for more than 15 years. From the opening blasts of Dizzy Gillespie’s “Lorraine,” one of many fine arrangements by Mike Crotty, the band romps through a program of 11 tunes that showcase the power and precision of this world-class ensemble.

Nark, of course, is famous for his playing that soars to high altitudes, but he’s equally as happy with feet planted on the ground: witness his imaginative and masterful work on the fluegelhorn interpreting the Jimmy VanHeusen gem “It Could Happen to You,” another Crotty arrangement. But if you want fiery finger work and soaring notes, check out the opening of “Cherokee,” where some melting had to take place as Nark’s horn headed toward triple-high registers. Joe Eckert’s alto adds great solo work, but the most impressive fact is how tight-knit this big band is as it swings to the heavens. And the closer, “My Funny Valentine,” is like the finale on the fourth of July: Nark sings and guitarist Rick Whitehead adds spice and the final explosion occurs with the trumpeter soaring far into space.

The band will celebrate its 50th anniversary in September, and this recording serves as a timely reminder of how special their music is.

Originally Published