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The Bob Florence Limited Edition: Serendipity 18

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Once upon a time, when hundreds of big bands roamed this continent in search of bread and success, conditions were not as favorable as they are now. Gigs may have been more plentiful in those ballroom- and theater-filled decades, but life on the road was certainly not conducive to good health or financial stability, as even the best paid sidemen often scuffled in between strings of one-nighters. Bad food, lack of proper sleep, unwashed clothes, excessive boozing, and loneliness, only occasionally relieved by fleeting sexual encounters, characterized the life of the average traveling musician. And for black musicians it was even tougher. Nowadays, though, it’s all so different. For example, Bob Florence, a long-established pianist and composer/arranger, can now summon within brief notice a flawless crew of L.A. jazz studiomen to show up fully prepared whenever he has a record date. No agonizing all-night driving from one gig to the next, no sweating out the paycheck, no struggling with bad reeds, leaky homes, or out-of-tune pianos, for these guys have already been through it all and emerged triumphant.

For this release, Bob brought together seven extended charts of both his and others’ compositions: the provocative “Serendipity 18,” written expressly for this 18-man crew; Stanley Turrentine’s “Sugar”; the haunting minor “Tres Palabras,” a 1940s pop bolero better known by its English title, “Without You”; “Now Playing,” a showcase for trumpeter/flugelhornist Carl Saunders; “Bimbosity,” a stunning Hamilton-esque feature for clarinetists Don Shelton and Terry Harrington; “Evelyn,” a multi-tempoed tour de force for altomen Shelton and Kim Richmond; and the ambitious three-part “3 E Motions,” which is also notable for excellent solos by trumpeters Steve Huffsteter, Ron Stout, and Saunders, tenorman Jeff Driskill, baritonist Bob Carr, and drummer Dick Weller. Other impressive soloists heard on earlier tracks are trombonists Alex Iles and Bob McChesney, baritonist Bob Efford, Shelton on soprano, and Harrington on tenor.