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Gap Mangione

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[May 26, 1997] -- The big-band sound is alive and well -- at least when Gap Mangione is at the helm. The veteran Rochester pianist and arranger showcases his band marvelously in Planet Gap, a zestful, hour long collection of crisply recorded jazz classics and Mangione originals.

The album, which has just arrived in local stores, features Mangione as leader, pianist and arranger, heading a 14-piece orchestra.

Adding key guest support are Mangione associates who have substantial solo careers: drummer Steve Gadd, bassist John Patitucci, guitarist Dan Schmitt and reed players Gerry Niewood and Pat LaBarbera.

Released on Cafe Records, the album opens with a rousing jazz band treatment of "Take Me Out To The Ballgame," an infectious track that deserves to be heard regularly during festivities at Frontier Field.

As each verse progresses, Mangione and the band move from a swing opening to a tradition-bound, waltz-tempo treatment to a hard driving rave-up finale.

The jazz standards on Planet Gap include the easy-swinging loop of "Groovin' for Nat," the hot Latin rhythms of "Bernie's Tune," a sexy slow paced reading of "Round Midnight," a funky "Doodlin'" flavored with Niewood's deep down baritone sax, and an uptempo swing through "Orange Colored Sky," showcasing vocals by Rochester singer Cindy Miller.

Most intriguing, though, is Mangione's arrangement of Charlie Parker's "Au Privave."

Though the tune is bebop standard, Mangione makes it a stylistic gumbo. He gives it a rock beat but arranges the trumpets into a modern interpretation of Louis Armstrong's 75 year old landmark solo on "Potato Head Blues."

Fans of the sort of melodic originals made famous by Mangione's younger brother, Chuck, will enjoy the album's two-song interlude that pairs a Gap original, "My Favorite Dream," with Chuck's "Rochester, My Sweet Home," the tune originally composed for our city's sesquicentennial in 1984.

But the CD's most entertaining track is "Calypso for Janet," a rhythmic delight that's built upon ascending melody lines and dedicated by Mangione to his wife.

To help launch Planet Gap, Mangione and The Big Band have scheduled several local appearances in the coming months, as well as a June 9 gig at New York City's prestigious Blue Note.