Phil Norman leads his critically acclaimed Tentet (the cream of the crop of LA-based session men; Carl Saunders, Andy Martin, Ron Stout, Roger Neumann, Larry Koonse, Rusty Higgins, Scott Whitfield, Tom Rizzo, Christian Jacob, Kevin Axt, Dick Weller, and Brad Dutz) through ten incredibly well-written charts including the Alan Broadbent original, Mendocino Nights and the Carl Saunder’s penned tribute, Dear Mr. Florence. Since 1995 the group’s ongoing mission remains transforming the sounds of cool modern west coast jazz for the new millennium. Their previous MAMA release stayed, which was ‘live’, stayed on jazz radio’s Top 50 chart for 24 straight weeks.
”The sound of the West Coast Jazz that enjoyed great popularity in the 1950s, and still has a legion of fans, has been kept alive by several groups through the years. One of the preferred formats was the mid-sized group or small big band that was typified by Shorty Rogers and His Giants, the Marty Paich Dek-tette and the Dave Pell Octet. Pell still gets out his charts on occasion for a gig. One keeper of the flame for this style of jazz is THE PHIL NORMAN TENTET. Their sixth album, Encore, is chock full of terrific music performed by some of the elite of the Los Angeles jazz scene. The lineup for this splendid set includes Norman, Rusty Higgins and Roger Neumann on reeds; Carl Saunders and Ron Stout on trumpet; Scott Whitfield on trombone; and a rhythm section of Christian Jacob on piano, Larry Koonse or Tom Rizzo on guitar, Kevin Axt on bass, Dick Weller on drums and Brad Dutz on percussion. The songs are first rate, the arrangements sublime, and the blowing will knock your socks off. A special mention must be made of ‘Dear Mr. Florence,’ a fond tribute to Bob Florence who held the piano chair in this band, and provided many of their arrangements until his untimely death three years ago. The chart by Scott Tibbs captures the musical spirit of this special musician. This is music that will settle easily on the ears of diggers of fine jazz sounds.”
”Don’t ever cast stones at the “small” big band. After all, with such a group Miles Davis once gave us the groundbreaking “Birth Of The Cool.” And Marty Paich and his Dektette traveled in fast West Coast company for many a year. In that tradition, here’s Phil Norman with a band of 10 sterling L.A. cats who can read anything and also provide mind-blowing solos, all within a strong jazz context. This is the fourth “Phil” in my collection, and every one of them is a musician’s delight. How can it be otherwise with players that include trumpet maven Carl Saunders, trombone ace Scott Whitfield, first call guitarist Larry Koonse and piano wizard Christian Jacob, among others. Jumping off the page for me were two Alan Broadbent compositions, the upbeat, melodic “Sonny’s Step,” written, I believe, for Sonny Clark. “Mendocino Nights” is another Broadbent beauty in 3/4. The arrangements are ideally suited to both the ensemble and solo skills of the players, and what great tunes to “blow” on. How about “In Your Own Sweet Way,” “Bernie’s Tune,” “Surrey With The Fringe On Top,” “The Touch of Your Lips” and “Billie’s Bounce,” among others. One of those is “Dear Mr. Florence,” Saunders’ tribute to the late pianist-band leader Bob Florence. This is five star stuff. Real music and no grandstanding.”
-Jazz Society of Oregon