According to Stereophile, “The arrangements are fabulous…it’s unbelievably dynamic and physical. Lots of sock, layer upon layer of sound…They just don’t come any cooler than this disc.” Jeffers melds Ellingtonian elegance and bayou funk, gospel and John Philip Sousa, Harlem and the samba.The trademark low brass punch of the NY Classics knocks out audiences all over the Big Apple, me included. Not so much a jamming big band like Clifford’s, they’re more in the tightly-knit Ellington groove. The Classics’ leader (and bass trombonist), Jack Jeffers is as good as they get. He’s spent more than 30 years in the big band trenches with some of the best, including the Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Charles and Clark Terry big bands. A great composer, Jack’s arrangements are a blast!
1. Duof March (J. Jeffers) -Listen to Sample
2. Mood Indigo (E.K. Ellington)
3. Say Amen, Brother (J. Jeffers) -Listen to Sample
4. First Tima At Last (J. Jeffers)
5. Sweet Emma (N. Adderley)
6. Corcovado (A.D. Jobim)
Suite: New York Will Keep You Dancing
7. Laura's Little Waltz (J. Jeffers)
8. No Mas Merengue (J. Jeffers)
9. Summer Night (J. Jeffers)
10. Sidewalk Samba (J. Jeffers) -Listen to Full Song
11. Legs For Days (J. Jeffers)
12. Caravan (E.K. Ellington)
13. Goodbye Pork Pie Hat (C. Mingus)
After a decade in the shadows of the Big Apple, this semi-big band, led by composer and brassman Jack Jeffers, emerges into the broad daylight with a snappy and substantive debut as unpretentious as it is unusual. Best known for his work with the big bands of Count Basie, Maynard Ferguson, Dizzy Gillespie and Clark Terry, Jeffers, a bass trombonist and tuba player, has been persistent, dogged even, in his efforts to realize his own big band. Using a curiously sized aggregate of 12 pieces (three trumpets, one trombone, four reeds and three rhythms), Jeffers achieves a wide range of tonal color, with the emphasis on low brass. In addition to a pair of Duke Ellington pieces and a tune apiece from Nat Adderly, Antonio Carlos Jobim (Corcovado) and Charles Mingus (Goodbye Pork Pie Hat), the maestro leads his charges through a number of his own originals, including a five-part suite, New York Will Keep You Dancing. Choice cuts, besides Ellington's Caravan and Jobim's Corcovado, include Jeffers' Duof March (5:19), the lushly lyrical First Time At Last (3:48) and the blithely spiritual Say Amen, Brother (6:08). Maintaining a big band, even a medium-sized band, is no picnic, so Jeffers deserves kudos - and special airplay consideration - for both his fortitude and musical foresight. A tune or two from New York Dances will work splendidly in a set with music from Howard Johnson's first tuba-ensemble CD, Gravity (Verve), and Falling With Grace from the Plunge (Accurate). -Gene Kalbacher
This excellent album is part of Hamiet Bluiett's new Explorations series dedicated to upcoming and veteran musicians who deserve greater recognition. Jeffers, a largely self-taught member of the latter group, is an all-around bass trombone and tuba player who composes, conducts, contracts studio musicians, performs in Broadway pit orchestras and jazz bands, and for the last eight years has led his own 12-piece N.Y. Classics Big Band. As a composer and arranger, he most resembles Ernie Wilkins, with whom he was associated in Clark Terry's big band in the mid-'60s.
Jeffers' writing, which includes his five-part suite New York Will Keep You Dancing plus arrangements of familiar tunes such as Mood Indigo, Caravan, Corcovado, and Good-bye, Pork Pie Hat conveys both the mobility of a combo and the depth of a big band. His voicings are clear and clean, with plenty of diverse rhythmic activity and soloists that emerge Ellington-style, as integral parts of the concept and not addenda. As befits his own horns, he writes from a low brass perspective, which gives this band an original sound. (His bass trombone or tuba often serves as a bridge or hinge upon which the other instruments ride, build, or dovetail into).
Besides Jeffers, the band has three trumpets, a trombone, four saxophones, and three rhythm. Tenor saxophonist and clarinetist Bill Easley, bassist Steve Novosel, and drummer Warren Smith are the most recognizable names. Tenor man Mark Shim is an impressive newcomer. Engineer Pierre Sprey's mansion and studio in Upper Marlboro, MD provided the setting for this fine, natural-sounding recording. -Owen Cordle