This band is 10 members wide. I smile when a reviewer of such groups says, "But they sound like a big band," because they never do. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s just that the ensemble takes a little getting used to if you’re expecting Stan Kenton. A standard big band means five reeds and six or seven brass. Dr. Eskovitz makes do with two woodwinds (including his very able self), three brass and five rhythm players. I was more than used to the sound a minute into "Breakthrough," the first track, and enjoying the heck out of it by the time a clever, swinging arrangement of the title tune rolled around. My only quibble is with the engineering. Perhaps to make the group sound "bigger," there’s more reverb than I would have used.
Bruce Eskovitz has a music doctorate from the University of Southern California and a long list of credits as a jazz and pop sideman. This is his fifth album as a leader. He and the other band members haven’t had much national recognition, but they are some of the best jazz musicians in Los Angeles, a town probably second only to New York in depth of talent. And, since that talent is often playing in TV or movie-studio orchestras to survive, it loves to break loose as it does here. The album shines with a boisterous, good-natured confidence totally unbefitting a learned doctor of music.
Know also that the doctor has complete command of his instruments. "Breakthrough" is a fast samba that features a fleet and solid soprano. His hard, fat tenor propels the upbeat "Invitation," but becomes surprisingly tender on the sentimental "Detour Ahead" by Herb Ellis. Trumpeters Larry Williams and Jeff Jarvis battle high and strong on Eskovitz’s "Latin Fever." Album notes say it’s always a crowd pleaser, and I believe it.
Seven of the album’s 10 tunes are Eskovitz originals and none of them are misses. The ambling and amiable "A Walk in the Park" is another worth special mention. It features delightfully laid-back solos by Jarvis (flugelhorn), Eskovitz (tenor), Lippman (trombone), and Cohen (bass). Things wrap-up with, "One Last Time." It proves the group can do gospel, but by now I’m convinced they could do most anything.One member of this band after another had me smiling with delighted appreciation of their solo work.
These guys are terrific, as you ought to find out for yourself.