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Product Review...

Blue Highways

Cadence: The Review of Jazz & Blues Creative Improvised Music ; Vol. 24 No. 6

June 1998

RIAS Big Band / Jiggs Whigham
Blue Highways: The Music of Paul Ferguson

Azica 72207

Blue Highways/ Seventh Sense/ Niece Piece/ The Long View/ Astieri/ Further Deviations/ Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out to Dry/ Three Studies on Themes of Edward Hopper: High Noon, Nighthawks, Rooms for Tourists. 65:49

Whigham, cond, tbn; Claudio Roditi, tpt, flgh solos; Klaus Marmulla, Gregoire Peters, as: Walter Gauchel, Joe Ridder, ts; Rolf von Nordenskjold, bari s; Greg Bowen , Deiter Bilsheim, Till Bronner, Christian Grabandt, tpt; Ferguson, Dan Gottshall, John Marshall, tbn; Andy Grossman, b tbn; Ingo Cramer, g; Kai Rautenberg, Wolfgang Kohler, p; Hajo Lange, b; Holger Nell, d. Berlin, Germany, June 17-21, 1996

It would be difficult to over praise these superlative new releases from Azica Records, each of which includes wonderful compositions and arrangements ably interpreted by two of Europe's premier Jazz ensembles and, as a bonus, dazzling solos by Brazil's consummate trumpet/flugelhorn master, Claudio Roditi.

Paul Ferguson, whose Threes Studies on Themes of Edward Hopper earned him the 1995 Gil Evans Fellowship in Jazz Composition from the International Association of Jazz Educators, shows on [Blue Highways] that the honor was indeed well-deserved, supplementing Three Studies with half a dozen picturesque compositions and a captivating arrangement of the standard "Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out to Dry." While most of his essays are thematic, they have as their common denominator a richly textured and idiosyncratic musical language that is nonetheless firmly anchored in Jazz tradition. In other words, they swing--which becomes quickly apparent with the walking bass/piano/drums intro to "Blue Highways," a musical representation of a cross-country trip undertaken in e 70's by William Least Heat-Moon, author of a book by that title. It's a delightful journey, thanks to Ferguson's perceptive writing and Roditi's impressive trumpet solo. "seventh Sense," commissioned by the RIAS Big Band, moves gently along in a Latin groove with Roditi's flugelhorn dancing nimbly around the changes before matters heat up with "Niece Piece," a minor blues with thorny sax soli section that introduces alto saxophonist Gregoire Peters as Roditi's fellow soloist. "The Long View," which rides easily along on another Latin substructure, was inspired by the works of composer Clare Fischer, while the atmospheric balled "Astieri," named for a Parisian restaurant, includes a couple of splendid choruses by soprano saxophonist Walter Gauchel. Whigham's well-seasoned trombone is featured on "Tears" and "Further Derivations," a 24-bar blues that nods toward fusion with extended modal improvisations and a rock-shuffle beat. The Three Studies, which close the session, are simply marvelous. They include "High Noon," a lively Jazz waltz that features guitarist Ingo Cramer; the ballad "Nighthawks," with Peters' creamy alto again showcased; and the beguiling samba "Rooms for Tourists," on which Gauchel (tenor), Whigham and Roditi solo. With Blue Highways, Ferguson introduces a fresh new voice in the wide open field of big-band composing and arranging. Let's hope he has much more to say.


Jack Bowers


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