A Fresh Perspective
Ian Charleton, composer/conductor arranger, is a Senior Chief Musician, who was the Head of Academics at the Naval School of Music, where he taught arranging. Also, a graduate of the University of North Texas, he burst on the scene with his 2013 debut CD, Brain Chatter. This is his long-awaited follow-up, A Fresh Perspective, where Charleton leads his eighteen-piece big band on ten tracks featuring his original compositions and new interpretations of standards including “Stardust,” by Hoagy Carmichael, Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies,” Marvin Fisher’s “When Sunny Gets Blue,” Vincent Youmans’ “Tea for Two,” and “Everything I’ve Got,” by Rogers & Hart. With his encyclopedic knowledge of the big band idiom – from Basie to Kenton and beyond – Charleton’s four original compositions: the swinging, Basie-bounced, “1 West 67th Street,” the breezy “Sunday Morning,” the bluesy “Party on Park,” and the title track, syncopated in 6/4 time, show that he can write songs that fit this large ensemble superbly.
Charleton was careful in picking out the right sidemen. Many of his key soloists, including pianist Bart Kuebler, Kerry Moffit on trumpet and flugelhorn, and tenor-saxophonist Keith Philbrick, are longtime associates while some of the others, including trombonist John Lloyd and altoist Richard Garcia, are new musical friends. Charleton knew how to write for their strengths and bring out the best in each player. As one can hear from the flawless ensembles, the solid swing and the group’s spirit, these musicians are top-notch. As for the leader’s arranging, “I’ve learned to streamline my writing since the earlier album, writing less than I did at the time in each arrangement and saying more with less.” A
“1 West 67th Street,” the first of Charleton’s four originals, opens. Pianist Kuebler leads the rhythm section during the first two minutes of this swinger before the big band joins in with a catchy melody that evokes Count Basie. that Count Basie might have played. Trombonist Lloyd takes a colorful solo that precedes some memorable choruses by the full orchestra. “This piece is dedicated to the underwriters who made this project possible. It is named after the New York address of Hotel des Artistes, the building where Lewis and Betsy Bryden own their apartment.” “Sunday Morning” has a relaxed and friendly mood with cool and subtle ensembles that perfectly set up fine solos from pianist Kuebler, flugelhornist Kerry Moffit, and bassist Ryan Persaud. On the title track the modern approach in 6/4 time, inspires adventurous solos from Garcia on soprano and Moffit on flugelhorn, driven by drummer Bob Habib who gets a few breaks along the way.
Emily Charleton makes her first of two appearances during a joyous version of “Everything I’ve Got,” a standard with humorous lyrics that the leader gives a Basie-type arrangement. Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies” has been a standard since the 1920s. Charleton completely reinvented the tune by making it a jazz waltz and adding extensions. Emily makes a welcome return and reaches a Memorex-break-the-glass moment soaring on “Blues Skies from now on.” Veteran tenor Keith Philbrick adds warm statement as well.
Hoagy Carmichael’s “Stardust” is modernized and reharmonized a bit by Charleton while preserving the original character of the tune, showcasing the eloquence of flugelhornist Kerry Moffit. Stefan Karlsson’s “El Otono” is a lightly funky piece with trumpeter Moffit and Garcia on alto stepping forward. Charleton slows down the tempo for “Tea For Two” as pianist Kuebler plays the verse and gives the tune a melancholy and romantic aura that fits its lyrics. “When Sunny Gets Blue” is usually performed as a vocal ballad, so it is surprising to hear it recast as a rollicking Latin instrumental (and surprising not to have Emily sing). The album closes with Charleton’s original “Party On Park” which was inspired by an after-hours party scene on Park Avenue in the Jeff Goldblum/Forrest Whitaker jazz movie Lush Life. Guitarist Wes Wagner and baritonist David Fatek are among the soloists during the joyful piece.
The album is packaged well with liners from the esteemed journalist Scott Yanow and a back cover where all soloists are identified piece by piece. This is a lively big band date that clearly shows Charleton’s command of the idiom.
- Jim Hynes