Sunny NoDak Records (SNR 5001)
Release Date: 2006
Conducted by Alf Clausen
The Alf Clausen Jazz Orchestra
Best of 2006: Best Re-Recording
|2.||Just Feelin' So Blue||5:08|
|3.||Trollin' For Thadpoles||7:10|
|4.||Lookin' For The Back Door||9:05|
|5.||Samba De Elencia||4:27|
|7.||Ballad For Gary||7:29|
|8.||A Final Farewell||7:16|
|9.||A Pair Of Threes||5:18|
|10.||Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most||6:22|
|Total Album Time:||67:10|
|by John Merriman
on August 29th, 2006
Alf Clausen, perhaps best known for his song and underscore work for The Simpsons, has released a collection of nine original big band swing compositions and one original arrangement titled Swing Can Really Hang You Up The Most. And indeed it can, judging by this wonderful jazz album. Clausen's recording is consistently inventive, infectiously entertaining, and ready-made to get you in that easygoing, foot-tapping, big band era mood that was America's definition of cool in the 1930s and 40s.
The album gets off to a jaunty start with "Captain Perfect", featuring dynamic blasts of horn between trumpet and soprano sax performed by Bob Summers and Dan Higgins, respectively. The mood softens with a considerably slower tempo in the next track, "Just Feelin' So Blue", in which Brian Scanlon's alto sax leads a somber and reflective piece that briefly lets loose with some impassioned brass toward the end. "Trollin' For Thadpoles" picks things up with a faster tempo and lighter tone. Andy Martin's trombone starts a brief interplay with Summers' trumpet before sax takes over, and eventually a drum finish slows things down to a satisfying close. "Lookin' For The Back Door" is punctuated by accelerating trumpet phrases, and showcases laid-back piano and trumpet played by Mike Lang and Warren Luening, respectively. This track transitions nicely to Lenny Castro's energetic Latin percussive rhythm featured in "Samba De Elencia". Soaring tenor sax by Terry Harrington and trombone by Bob McChesney pass a particularly smooth melody back and forth throughout this cue.
The album's latter half starts with "Brief Encounter": an ascending horn intro first leads into some metropolitan-sounding phrases, and eventually into alto sax performed by Higgins and trumpet performed by Summers. A descending six-note statement passed from woodwind to brass opens "Ballad For Gary", a subdued, contemplative piece for Lang's piano and Scanlon's soprano sax. The tempo shifts considerably with "A Final Farewell", which brings back the enjoyable Latin percussion. A bass line of repeated pairs of notes lead into some lively horn and more great performances by Summers on trumpet and Higgins on alto sax. The fast-paced arrangement gets busier near the end before finishing with a spotlight on the catchy bass line. "A Pair Of Threes" is featured next, marked by the interplay between Bob Efford's baritone sax and Luening's trumpet, as well as some vigorous, soaring brass outbursts. The album comes to a pleasant close with Clausen's arrangement of "Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most", which features Castro's rhythmic Latin percussion, Summers' easygoing trumpet, and an especially triumphant horn section.
What's clear in this album is that Clausen takes full advantage of jazz's ability to provide stylish music that features plenty of confidence and personality. Collectively, the compositions deliver a range of distinct tempos and moods that complement one another effortlessly. Clausen also packs in plenty of layered musical writing throughout his compositions that beg multiple listens. All in all, Swing Can Really Hang You Up The Most is a highly enjoyable listen for anyone who appreciates relaxed swing and jazz, as well as a great introduction for newcomers to these classic genres.
Editor's Note: this album is available exclusively from Alf Clausen on his official website - so be sure to go pick it up!
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