Powerhouse jazz trombonist, Scott Whitfield, shows his remarkable instinct, soul and musical ability on Carl Saunders incredibly ‘crafted’ musical compositions…The first in the series, Sam Most, New Jazz Standards Vol. 1, illustrated Saunders unique ability to compose memorable music…Volume 2 expands on that with the Trombone-wizardry of Scott Whitfield and a world-class rhythm section with a tremendous amount ofexperience leading the way…including jazz veteran, Peter Erskine on drums…
Critically acclaimed Scott Whitfield (trombonist, composer, arranger, and vocalist) is internationally recognized for his work with many contemporary big bands, including those of Toshiko Akiyoshi, Johnny Mandel, Clare Fischer, Bill Holman, Bob Florence, and his own Scott Whitfield Jazz Orchestras (East and West).
Saunders has worked with Stan Kenton, Bobby Sherwood, Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Paul Anka, Robert Goulet, Harry James, Maynard Ferguson, Benny Goodman, Charlie Barnet, and many more and has called Scott Whitfield the great jazz trombonist he has had the pleasure to work with….
Scott Whitfield, New Jazz Standards (Volume 2), Summit Records
In this second volume of trumpeter Carl Saunders’ compositions he again produces, does not play and gives another horn player top billing. Volume 1 featured the late flutist Sam Most. This time, trombonist Scott Whitfield is the putative leader and primary soloist. He applies his virtuosity to a dozen of Saunders’ tunes, most of them original from the ground up, a few based on the chord structures of familiar jazz compositions or the blues. Experienced listeners will have no difficultly recognizing, for instance, the inspirations for “Another Tune For Bernie” or “Big Darlin’,” though most of Saunders’ compositions demonstrate originality and harmonic ingenuity.
Whitfield is master of a cranky and demanding instrument. He recalls the virtuosity of Frank Rosolino and Carl Fontana, with their capacity for dazzling speed and flurries of notes in the stratosphere. Yet, as in “I Remember Thad”— inspired by the late trumpeter Thad Jones—Whitfield demonstrates lyrical tenderness that recalls another side of his persona, as a singer of duets with his vocalist wife Ginger Berglund. The trombonist has support from a blue ribbon Los Angeles rhythm section. Bassist Kevin Axt and pianist Christian Jacob have honed their togetherness through years in the Tierney Sutton Band and work seamlessly with drummer Peter Erskine in support of Whitfield. Through overdubbing, on some tracks Whitfield is a trombone duo or choir, particularly affecting on “Big Darlin,’” and the joyful ”Gamma Count.” “Juarez” has three Whitfields intersecting in a free-for-all. It’s a happy album.
On New Jazz Standards, Volume 2 (yes, the title may seem a tad optimistic at first glance; more about that later), trombonist Scott Whitfield leads a well-honed quartet playing the music of Carl Saunders. If the name Carl Saunders is new to you, he is quite simply one of the finest jazz trumpeters you’ve never heard—and he may well be one of the best composers too. As for Whitfield, Saunders’ personal choice to preside over this album, he is one of the Los Angeles area’s foremost jazz trombonists, one who has led big bands on both coasts, played with a number of others, recorded ten albums as a leader and more than fifty as a sideman while “doubling” as a vocalist with wife Ginger Berglund and teaching at San Jose State University. If that sounds like a heavy schedule, it is—and as you will hear, for good reason.
When Saunders isn’t playing trumpet in some group or other—which, it must be said, isn’t often—and when he has free time during gigs, he writes. And writes prolifically. In fact, Saunders recently assembled more than three hundred of his compositions in book form and published it as New Jazz Standards, hence the name of this album, Volume 1 of which featured the late flutist Sam Most (Summit Records 630). Most was a master craftsman, as is Whitfield. Few contemporary trombonists can match Whitfield’s clarity of tone or technical dexterity, traits that bring to mind such past masters as Carl Fontana, Urbie Green, Bill Harris and Jimmy Cleveland. And as for improvisation and flat-out swinging, he sets the bar high there as well. Saunders not only chose his helmsman well, he gave him a backup crew that is second to none, anchored by timekeeper par excellence Peter Erskine and featuring the always-resourceful pianist Christian Jacob and metronomic bassist Kevin Axt.
As to Saunders’ themes, they are consistently bright and charming. While the presence of any new jazz standards is for listeners to determine, there’s no doubt that Saunders has a keen ear for captivating melodies and the ability to arrange them in a tasteful and harmonious musical context. Most of them aren’t based on popular standards, a staple of many jazz composers, but created out of whole cloth using only Saunders’ fertile imagination as groundwork. The results are never less than admirable and often brilliant, ranging from ballads to blues, Latin to funk and straight-ahead swing. To add variety, Whitfield is overdubbed on four tracks to form a trombone choir. He and the quartet are superb, as are Saunders’ prospective New Jazz Standards, which await only the auspicious verdict of an impartial jury.
Track Listing: Prudence; More Wine; Big Darlin’; Melodocity; I Remember Thad; B Squad Blues; Gamma Count; Lolly’s Folly; Juarez; Another Tune for Bernie; Last Night’s Samba; Symphonky Blues.
Personnel: Scott Whitfield: trombone; Christian Jacob: piano; Kevin Axt: bass; Peter Erskine: drums; Carl Saunders: composer, arranger.
New Jazz Standards is the name of a published collection of compositions by trumpeter Carl Saunders, a highly in-demand session player also beloved by his peers for the exceptional quality of his writing and arranging. The first disc in this series of recordings featured flutist Sam Most; the second comes courtesy of trombonist Scott Whitfield, and it’s just as good. Saunders’ tunes are straight-ahead in style but highly inventive and harmonically original — listen past their pleasantly swinging surfaces and you’ll hear plenty of surprising changes. It would be interesting to know who the additional (and uncredited) horn players are on “Big Darlin’”, unless that was Whitfield himself being multitracked. In any case, this is a deeply and richly enjoyable album, one that will make an outstanding addition to any library’s jazz collection.