Florence's arrangement of the Ellington theme, Strayhorn's " Take The A Train," is proof positive of guitarist Larry Koonse's words: "Bob's enthusiasm for wanting to be stretched musically was contagious. He was truly an adventurous young soul." He first puts his own spin on that familiar intro, and weaves the resulting theme throughout this intricate and challenging chart. Like Duke, he had great respect for his individual musicians, well justified by the sizzling solos of Koonse, Carl Saunders on trumpet and Bob Efford on bari. It's quite a train ride.
The same sense of adventure appears in his version of "I'm All Smiles" from Michael Leonard's "The Yearling." This 1965 show lasted three performances but the song lives on, given a jump start by an early Streisand release. Kim Richmond is featured and really delivers on alto. All possibilities are explored in the percussive chart of the MASH theme "Suicide is Painless," driven by the rhythm section of Alan Broadbent (in Bob's piano chair), Peter Erskine(drums) and Trey Henry (bass). Michel Legrand's "You Must Believe in Spring" opens with a sparkling solo by Broadbent and builds in intensity over Florence's restatement of Legrand's theme.
Florence provided four compositions before his passing and the orchestra performed with the superior musicianship and feeling you would expect in a "last edition." Written for a friend, "Fluffy" contrasts eloquent solos on soprano, trombone and trumpet with edgy ensemble passages while Peter Erskine contributes a lot more than the credited drum solo. A good time is had by all with the New Orleans flavored "Geezerhood," opening with twin baris and giving Scott Whitfield plenty of opportunity for bluesy trombone conversation. "Limited Edition Express" swings like mad while Florence's bossa nova "Luci" with Carl Saunders' inspired trumpet solo says "thank you" to executive producer Luci Lansson.
The session ends with "Auld Lang Syne" where "we actually hear Bob" as his sensitive piano sound is blended in from previous recordings. Truth is he was there from beginning to end.
A most fitting tribute to a fine human being and a musical genius.