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Chris Tedesco: Living The Dream

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Over the past few decades, many Los Angeles big bands have made indelible impressions on the jazz scene. Whether they have been traveling or rehearsal bands, or ones that occasionally recorded, big bands led by Mike Barone, Bob Florence, Terry Gibbs, Bill Holman, Pat Longo or Tommy Vig always knew how to stoke up the heat with the best book (The collection of arrangements.)

Now another name can be added to that list: Chris Tedesco, who’s been on the L.A. scene since 1987, is an exciting trumpeter/clinician originally from Niagara Falls, N.Y. Like the above-named, he has managed to corral the cream of the studio crop — the most proficient readers and swingers on the West Coast — to put together a cohesive 18-piece band, and then some: adding thirty strings for a lush studio sound to support his good buddy, singer Tony Galla, on two of his four selections.

It’s an impressive big band debut by the versatile Tedesco (who has to his credit three classical trumpet albums plus a CD of jazz duets) thanks largely to the arrangements of Jim McMillen and the first-rate studio soloists they wisely chose. But make no mistake about it, this is Tedesco’s opportunity to shine, and he glows in it. His is the only solo trumpet heard on all ten tracks despite the fine trumpeters included in that section. He even splits the lead with Bill Churchville on “Shuffle This,” one of four Tedesco originals on the session, and takes the flugelhorn solo on “Moody’s Mood For Love.” But he is certainly worth listening to: he boasts a clarion tone, tons of technique, inexhaustible melodic ideas and a level of energy that would have made Maynard Ferguson envious. Check the wild lead-in to his solo on “The Opener.” For that matter, listen carefully to his complete solo. While you’re checking, consider the soprano sax work of Brian Scanlon on “Race To The Bottom;” trombonist Ron McChesney on “I’ve Got Some Kind of Rhythm;” and focus on how drummer Dave Tull propels the band every time he plays. He is an exceptional big band drummer.

Vocalist Galla’s best efforts as a jazz singer can be heard on “Learnin’ The Blues.” His chops are muscular and he sure knows how to swing. On “Willow Weep For Me” his phrasing is a bit suggestive of Tony Bennett’s, but his intonation is more precise. His attempt at “Moody’s Mood For Love” is hampered by his wide vibrato. One needs a thinner voice to execute a swinger that wordy.

Originally Published