Available at AMAZON, iTUNES and through online music distributors.
Original Release Date: March 14, 1985
Release Date: March 28, 2010
Copyright: 2010 LiquidJazz™
Total Length: 48:53
Producer: Fernando Gelbard
Recording Engineer: Phil Sheridan
Co-Producer and Musical Advisor: Jorge Calandrelli
Mixed by Rob McConnell, Jorge Calandrelli, Fernando Gelbard and Phil Sheridan
Assistant: Steve Ibelshauser
Recorded December 19-20, 1983 at McClear Place, Toronto, Canada
Mixed December 21-22-23, 1983 at McClear Place, Toronto, Canada
Mastering: Peter Norman, McClear Place, Toronto, Canada (1983)
Remastering: Mark Vincent & Fernando Gelbard at Multi Media Music, Hollywood (2010)
Cover Design: Bill Woodward for Woody Woodward
Cover Photograpy (painting): Woody Woodward
Cover Painting: by Aneff from Uruguay
Digital Production: Fernando Gelbard (2010)
Liner notes by Leonard Feather:
This is an extraordinary album by a no less extraordinary orchestra. It represents the product of an international effort involving a Canadian composer and his orchestra, an Argentinian producer, and a repertoire composed of Brazilian songs and American standard tunes.
The collaboration of Rob McConnell and Fernando Gelbard came about in a most unusual way. Active for many years in Argentina as a producer (and as a flutist and pianist), Gelbard came to the U.S. in 1976 and four years later, at the suggestion of a celebrated fellow Argentinean, the composer Lalo Schifrin, joined the Foundation for New American Music. Soon afterward he became a director and executive committee member of this organization, which presents the concerts by the New American Orchestra at the Los Angeles Music Center.
McConnell recalls that he came into the picture when Gelbard and Jack Elliott, leader of the orchestra, were chatting at a post-concert party. "Fernando talked to Jack about me, told him how much he liked my orchestra, and Jack arranged to bring us together."
By this time, McConnell had begun to acquire a belated reputation south of the Canadian border. The orchestra was launched in Toronto in 1968 (McConnell, a native of London, Ontario, had spent the last 25 years of his life as a freelancer there).
Despite enthusiastic reactions, the band remained a part-time occupation throughout the 1970s. "All of us have had other activities to keep us going," Rob told me. "Several men, like Moe Koffman, are composers and lead their own groups, but when we have a booking for the orchestra, our personnel remains very steady."
Finally, in the fall of 1981, the first big break came with a deal to play at the Monterey Jazz Festival. Aside from a single break-in date in Upstate New York, this marked the first time the Boss Brass had ever been in the States as a unit. They followed it up with a videotaping session at Concerts by the Sea and a four-night stand at Carmelo's. In January of 1984 they returned, this time for a stint at Donte's and a couple of other gigs.
That the orchestra is now well-known in California, but has yet to be heard in New York and most other American cities, is due in large part to the help it had from airplay on such jazz stations at KKGO in Los Angeles and KJAZ in San Francisco.
After winning two Juno awards (the Canadian counterpart of the Grammys) and being nominated three times for a Grammy, the McConnell battalion finally hit gold in 1984, when its album "All in Good Time," released in the U.S. on Dark Orchid Records, won the Best Big Band Grammy, up against such stiff competition as Count Basie. On the heels of this triumph, the band now presents what is beyond doubt one of its finest albums, and one that departs slightly from its routine style.
However, despite the Latin accent in several selections, and the inclusion of two arrangements by Gelbard's longtime friend Jorge Calandrelli, the essential characteristics--brilliantly orchestrated charts for the 22 men, originality in textures and tone colors, consistent invention by no fewer than nine soloists--all remain unimpaired and, in fact, reach new heights of achievement.
"We had no problem at all relating to this material," says McConnell. "In fact, it was a special pleasure to play Jorge's two arrangements, and to do my own charts on two of Fernando's compositions."
Prior to the session, Gelbard went to Toronto to hear the band play for a few nights at Bourbon Street, listen to a broad selection of tunes, and pick out those that seemed most suitable for the album.
"Atras da Porta" ("Behind the Door") is a triple triumph in its subtle interweaving of composition (by Francis Hime), Calandrelli's ingenious arrangement, and the distinguished soloist, Guido Basso, the orchestra's sole French-Canadian constituent. Note the subtle manner in which the band eases into double time.
"Bye Bye Blues" is an antique pop song, vintage 1930, written by (and the radio theme song of) a pre-swing bandleader named Bert Lown. Rob McConnell is front and center here, playing the melody almost straight with a neat obbligato by pianist Jimmy Dale. The second chorus exemplifies the maestro's always personal writing style. Following Eugene Amaro's eloquent tenor, there is a brief doubled-up passage before Rob suddenly reprises the melody. (As a trombonist he is basically self-taught; he studied composing and arranging with the late Gordon Delamont.)
"Didi" is an attractive original contributed by Gelbard, to which Rob added the magic of his penmanship. The flute soloist, Moe Koffman, is perhaps the best-known of McConnell's men among U.S. audiences ever since "Swinging Shepherd Blues" on his own first LP became a hit in 1957. (Rob himself and guitarist Ed Bickert played on that date.) The crisp ending on this cut is typical of the band's superb cohesion.
Rob shows his deft touch again in a brilliant arrangement of "Autumn in New York." The 1934 Vernon Duke standard is played entirely without a rhythm section throughout the first chorus, yet an implicit pulse is always present. Jerry Toth's tone on alto sax is distinctive; he is derivative neither of the Hodges nor the Parker school.
"Amor Ate o Fim" ("Love Until the End") was arranged by tenor saxophonist Rick Wilkins, who retains the Brazilian spirit of Gilberto Gil's melody, from the electric keyboard samba vamp (with Memo Acevedo supplying additional percussion rhythms) through the solos by Gene Amaro on flute and the poised, personal John MacLeod, all the way to the keyboard reprise. Hearing the band play this tune during its stay at Donte's, I was impressed with the excitement generated by its Pan-American flavor, from Canada to the U.S. to Brazil.
The Gelbard melody "Flowers" is tightly knit, the main strain all within the range of a fourth (from B-flat down to F the first time around). Highlights are a suspenseful rhythmless passage and Jimmy Dale's foray on electric keyboard. Dale is another of the sidemen with numerous U.S. credits; at one time he was musical director on the Cher TV show. "Several years ago Guido, Moe and I were players on the show's pilot," Rob recalls. Some years later, Rob came back to Los Angeles for the premiere of his composition "Hello from the North," performed by the New American Orchestra.
"Jo Jo's Dance," played with a straight four feeling, gives Rob a chance to display the jazz aspect of his trombone personality. This cut is also notable for a contribution by Ed Bickert, long Canada's premier guitarist and well-known through his recordings with Paul Desmond. Calandrelli's arrangement of this Gelbard work shows he has a clear understanding of how to bring out the band's unique essence.
Cole Porter's 1936 hit "Easy to Love," taken at a brisk up tempo, is a vehicle for Koffman's alto sax and for a two-chorus solo by Steve Wallace, who surprises us in the last 16 bars by reverting to a walking-bass style. A Terry Clarke drum break leads the way into the out chorus for this vibrant McConnell arrangement.
Rob McConnell and the Boss Brass have risen, during the last few years, to a position of unique respect among fellow musicians on either side of the border. That the band has been able to travel in the U.S. at all is due at least partly to the friendly cooperation of the Canadian government, through its Department of External Affairs; also to the support of a group of enthusiastic businessmen in Toronto who helped get the first American visit under way.
Given its size (there are not many 22-piece orchestras on the road nowadays), one can understand the logistic problems in establishing the band as a permanent, traveling unit. However, its phenomenal level of artistry, coupled with the Grammy and its attendant prestige, should at least enlarge the buying public for this and all future albums.
We owe a special debt to Fernando Gelbard for his vital role in bringing to fruition this latest triumph in the Boss Brass' distinguished career.
--Leonard Feather ( 1985)