CHATTER: THE GAP MANGIONE BIG BAND
by Russ Tarby
Syracuse New Times
13, 1997] -- In the Thirties and Forties, big bands played for dancing.
In the Nineties, big bands play primarily for a listening audience.
When Syracuse's Stan Colella's Orchestra performs for dancers at
Sunnycrest Park every summer, it's a throwback to the Swing Era.
But when the Central New York Jazz Orchestra sets up on the Mulroy
Civic Center stage or when the Salt City Jazz Collective packs 'em
in at the Syracuse Suds Factory, the audience wants to hear the
sections swing and the soloists soar -- they're not there to dance.
you might expect, the Gap Mangione Big Band can swing with the best
of them. As a nineties aggregation, however, the orchestra's varied
repertoire satisfies many tastes and appears designed primarily
to entertain a sophisticated jazz audience. These people appreciate
improvisation. They sway to the Latin rhythms. They dig the be-bop
The opening cut of Planet Gap [Cafe Records] offers a glimpse of
swing's secret as the 19 Rochester area musicians swing a normally
non-swinging standard, "Take Me Out To The Ball Game."From
there, it's off to the races as the pianist, bandleader and arranger
stakes claim to a wide swath of jazz territory on these 12 terrific
"Groovin' for Nat" kicks off with Mangione's piano giving
way to Andy Weinzler's boppish tenor sax and Jeff Jarvis' toneful
trumpet before Mangione's sweeter keyboard takes it home. The band
leader's arrangement of Gerry Mulligan's 1953 composition "Bernie's
Tune" illustrates two of Mangione's preferences; be-bop stylings
and Latin rhythms. Longtime Mangione sideman Gerry Niewood brightens
"Bernie" with a fanciful flute solo and later blows a
declarative baritone sax on Horace Silver's be-bop standard, "Doodlin."
Mangione balances the bop with several ballads, masterfully arranged
as the sections lay down a powerful bed from which the talented
soloists rise and stretch out, comfortably embracing the slow tempos.
This approach is pleasingly evident on Thelonious Monk's classic
"Round Midnight," featuring Pat LaBarbera on tenor, Bob
Kalwas on bass trombone and Jarvis on Flugelhorn.
co-arranged "Coat Check Cathy" with its composer Tim Torrance,
and the nine and a half minute track shimmies with creaming saxophones
as the reeds lead the way to "Cathy"'s dark charms.
singer Cindy Miller vocalizes Mangione's original song "My
Favorite Dream," which the lyrics indicate, is a reverie "equal
parts of love and music." The eight and a half minute arrangement
also mirrors nocturnal musings, as it shifts from a straight ballad
into another Caribbean-influenced opus fired by Dan Schmitt's guitar
and Weinzler's tenor.
Except for "The Gap Theme," an r'n'b like break tune which
concludes the set, Mangione has grouped his own numbers - and one
by his famous brother Chuck - in the middle of the disc. Gap's "Favorite
Dream" is followed by Chuck's "Rochester, My Sweet Home,"
a lovely instrumental sparked by Gap's electric piano, complemented
by elegantly stated section lines and "Calypso For Janet,"dedicated
to the bandleader's beloved wife, takes the orchestra on another
island foray with a percussion and horn-driven arrangement that
Tito Puente would envy.
it's back to bop with Charlie Parker's "Au Privave." The
rhythm section - drummer Steve Gadd and bassist John Patitucci -
shines here, along with brassmen Jarvis, who often seems to echo
Chuck Mangione's distinctive horn style, sweet yet hot and always
Produced by Gap Mangione and recorded and engineered by Larry Swist
at Trackmaster Audio in Buffalo, Planet Gap's overall sound shimmers
with a bright, trebly quality that should make this disc a favorite
of jazz radio programmers across the country.
Back To Press