This is The Southern California Jazz Company's first commercial recording. It is released by Sea Breeze Jazz, a label specializing in bag band jazz and whose catalog is highlighted by such luminaries as Bob Florence, Rob McConnell, and Frank Mantooth. Leader John Fick has been a big band trumpeter for the past three decades, logging time with Bob Wilbur, and the Harry James and Jimmy Dorsey orchestras before semi-retiring and entering the business world. After taking up music again full-time, Fick started the SCJC as a rehearsal band in 1993 and recruited fellow Los Angeles musicians for his group. I should point out that "Southern California Jazz Company" describes both the big band and an octet derived from the big band's ranks. This CD features the work of the 18-piece big band.
Though none of the band's musicians are generally known outside of the Los Angeles music scene, this is not a weekend pick-up outfit, and the group plays together cohesively and swings nicely. Credentials of the SCJC band members include work with Harry James, Stan Kenton, and the Toshiko Akioshi-Lew Tabackin Big Band. Standout soloists include tenorists Tony Garcia and Lance Rickman, Dave Woodley on trombone, and Bill Fulton on piano. As a bonus, the band included three vocals by Japanese jazz star Michie Sahara on this CD, which was recorded shortly before her tragic death due to a heart attack last September.
The band provides its own arrangements for this program of tunes, which are nearly all Tin Pan Alley standards. Interestingly the band does not fall back on standard Big-Band-Era fare, the exception being "Stompin' At the Savoy". However, the band takes the tune at a relaxed medium tempo and the arrangement highlights Michie Sahara singing the lyric Andy Razaf added after the tune became a huge hit in 1937.
The atmosphere of this album also seems to indicate that this is music that the players seem to enjoy, and playing in this group gives them an opportunity to unwind and blow on tunes they like. The program is designed for listening and after hearing this CD, it is not hard to understand why this band is so popular around the Los Angeles and Pasadena areas. Fans of contemporary big band jazz will find a lot to like about this album. While hard-core jazz buffs may consider the music here somewhat less ambitious than the fare flaunted by university "lab bands", the artistry and arrangements of the Southern California Jazz Company are top-notch, and the sound of the CD is superb.