Composer / arranger Ed Vezinho (alto, flute & clarinet) and brassman co-leader Jim Ward's high-energy sixteen piece big band tear through five original charts and contemporary versions of six classic standards plus a Bach piece ("Joy") on their Dreambox Media debut release. Special guest featured soloists include saxophonists Ron Kerber, Michael Pedicin, Denis DiBlasio and Larry McKenna; Al Harrison and George Rabbai on flugelhorns; Robert Rawlins on flute, Pete Colangelo on trumpet and guitarist Brian Betz.
- Personnel, track listings and reviews
Personnel: Ed Vezinho, Howard Issacson, John Guida, Joe Rotella & Stan Weiss, reeds; Jim Ward, Joe Scannella, Dennis Wasko, Dave Kennedy & Mike Natale, trumpets; Joe Zeigenfus, Clint Sharman, Rich Goldstein & Joe Jacobs, trombones; Demetrious Pappas, piano; Andy Lalasis, basses; Harry Himles, drums.
"Hat Out of Bell" / "Jofa" / "All the Way" / "Joy" / "Trumpetland" / "Sophisticated Lady" / "Secret Love" / "I'll Be Around" / "With Friends Like These" / "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face" / "Maybe" / "Runnin' Away From You"
What the critics say:
"...the Vezinho/Ward Big Band has a nice little thing going on...Their program is made up mostly of cleverly re-arranged standards but reedman Vezinho contributed four titles. 'Hat Out of Bell' has nice tenor and trumpet from John Guida and Mike Natale respectively before tight section work rounds from the saxes/trombones/trumpets...'Trumpetland' can be taken literally, and sounds like rhythm changes. Thereís a synthesizer solo by Demetrious Pappas over fatback tempo on the title tune and, likewise, 'Runniní Away From You,' the funky closer with fuzzy guitar. Talk about selfless, I couldnít find any solowork from Vezinho and the co-leader has only one trumpet spot on the ballad 'Iíll Be Around.' Several other guests players are heard on various tracks (Ron Kerber, ss; Michael Pedicin, Larry McKenna, Skip Spratt, ts; Al Harrison, George Rabbai, flgh; Robert Rawlins, flt; Pete Colangelo, tpt; Clint Sharman, tbn; Denis DiBlasio, bari s; Brian Betz, g.). In summation, this is big band almost anyone could live with and a proud extension of the territory band tradition."
"Big bands live - to gracefully present a collection largely of standards and originals by Vezinho...
The title track, with its more electric sound, is a funky calling card and good for the mix. J.S. Bach's 'Jesu, Joy of Man's Desire,' simply titled 'Joy' on this CD, is a good-natured riff on a classical chestnut, while Philly tenor guru Larry McKenna drops some of his magic dust on Lerner and Loewe's 'I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face.'
...Denis DiBlasio on baritone sax and another Rowan prof, George Rabbai, on flugelhorn, dress up a sprightly 'Once I Had a Secret Love.' Yet another Atlantic City sax vet, Michael Pedicin, lays out his pretty logic on 'All the Way.'"
- Philadelphia Inquirer
"Alongside trumpeter Jim Ward, Vezinho has co-led the Ed Vezinho-Jim Ward Big Band for twenty-six years with a largely unchanged line-up, providing undeniable testimony that beautiful music can be made when fortunate enough to have 'friends like these.'
'With Friends Like These' is its first for Philadelphia-based Dreambox Media. Supported by scorching woodwinds and a howling brass section led by Ward, this sixteen-piece high octane big band, comprised of the finest showroom musicians in Atlantic City, delivers a 'blow your socks off,' power-infused performance typical of traditional muscle ensembles.
Vezinho and Ward make the recording more enticing by recruiting a host of guest soloists including tenor saxophonists Larry McKenna and Michael Pedicin, flugelhornists Al Harrison and George Rabbai, and trumpeter Pete Colangelo all rounding out the Philadelphia influence on the music.
With an exciting mix of Vezinho originals and arrangements of familiar standards, the album opens with the co-leader's 'Hat Out of Bell,' where the group's energetic opening statement quickly establishes an aggressive mode that sets the stage and theme for the recording. Ron Kerber, a former member...is remembered here as the band performs his 'Jofa' with a special appearance...
Sammy Cahn's 'All The Way' is the first jazz standard, taken for a wild ride by the band's powerful horn section and featuring a dicey performance by Pedicin. Duke Ellington would indeed be proud of the way 'Sophisticated Lady' is treated here, especially by Stan Weiss' warm baritone solo, accompanied by guitarist Brian Betz. Guest Denis DiBlasio delivers the disc's other outstanding baritone solo on 'Secret Love.'
Philadelphia jazz icon Larry McKenna lends his tenor voice to the Loerner & Lowe standard 'I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face,' providing a delicate sound gently treated with light orchestral play by the band for a nice ballad. Playing a high-pitched Maynard Ferguson-like trumpet, Ward leads the band on 'I'll Be Around,' another soft ballad.
Other stand out tunes include 'Trumpetland,' 'Maybe,' the finale 'Runnin' Away From You,' and Vezinho's swinging title piece, which is a feature for Colangelo and band trumpeter Mike Natale, creating some terrific horn play.
For those who favor the big band sound, Vezhino and Ward's selection of music and clever arrangements will be exceptionally pleasing. Most of all, the musicianship, solos and all around outstanding performances from a truly world-class orchestra and guests give special meaning to the phrase 'With Friends Like These.'"
- All About Jazz.com
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