Manhattan Bones is a quartet of New York City area academicians, pit-orchestra musicians and freelancers, plus a rhythm section. While the group’s trombone love affair ostensibly salutes J.J. Johnson (“Shutter-bug”), Juan Tizol (“Caravan”), Bob Brookmeyer (“Hum”) and Jimmy Knepper (“Where Flamingos Fly”), leader Scott Reeves contributes a couple of challenging modern compositions, and then there are Faure’s “Pavane,” Gil Evans’ “Gone” and Wayne Shorter’s “Tom Thumb.”
With Reeves on tenor trombone, alto flugelhorn and alto valve trombone, Tim Sessions and Mark Patterson on tenor trombone and Tim Newman on bass trombone, the group achieves a majestic ensemble blend (for example, “Pavane”) and also cuts loose for capable solo work. Sessions’ lead on “Where Flamingos Fly” is grittier than Knepper’s on the original Gil Evans recording. On “Shutter-bug” and “Hum,” the ‘bone section plays harmonized versions of solos by Johnson and Clark Terry, respectively, from the original recordings. Suffice to say, the group’s technical skills are not lacking.
Pianist Jim Ridl, bassist Mike McGuirk and drummer Andy Watson handle the rhythm-section duties with more than perfunctory accompaniment. The pianist’s energizing solos are a highlight.