Picks and Pans Review: Live at the Red Parrot
The Grover Mitchell Big Band
Just how big must a big band be before a big band does sound big? If it's this band, 13 pieces will do. "That's at least six pieces less than the usual standard today," says Mitchell, 55, who played lead trombone in the Count Basie Orchestra from 1962 to 1970 and from 1980 until Basie's death last year. Mitchell isn't pretending that economics haven't largely dictated how many guns he can tote. But he's not just rationalizing when he says, "What we've got is about the same number of instruments Fletcher Henderson and Benny Goodman used to use, and those bands knocked the house down. Duplicating instruments doesn't necessarily give you more sound." Mitchell's band sounds as broad shouldered as anyone's, yet swings fiercely without raising a noticeable drop of sweat. The ensemble backings kick the soloists smartly along or flirt with them suavely. The personnel on this record include seven former or current Basie sidemen. That would have been enough to constitute a clone if such had been Mitchell's intention. And six of the eight tunes on this LP (including C-Jam Blues, Sonny Rollins' St. Thomas and It's A Wonderful World) were arranged by tenor saxophonist Eric Dixon, moonlighting from his gig as musical director of the Basie band. But then the search for freedom is what led Mitchell to go out on his own, and it's what he gives everyone involved in his new project. Throughout the record, that freedom rings, not shattering any stylistic boundaries, but nevertheless imparting a joyous, uninhibited feel to the proceedings. (Hemisphere, P.O. Box 3578, New York, N.Y. 10185)
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