Album Remarks & Appraisals:
Gentle grooves from Canada’s finest Big Band. “An excellent arranger with a real affection for hard-swinging, contemporary big band jazz” is how Great Britain’s Virgin Encyclopedia of Jazz characterizes Canadian Rob McConnell. Born near Toronto in 1935, McConnell played valve trombone in a number of local bands before joining his fellow Canadian Maynard Ferguson in New York where the famous highnote trumpeter had been playing with his big band since 1956. In 1968 McConnell returned to Toronto and founded a 15 piece brass band with rhythm section. He named it Boss Brass, keeping the name when he added a 5 piece reed section to the band in 1971. At first, McConnell arranged pop hits for Boss Brass, but as time went on the repertoire became more and more jazzy. Through their recordings, the band won international acclaim. However, they had never toured outside of Canada, so this 1979 MPS production took place in a studio in Toronto and was later mixed at MPS’s studio in Villingen, Germany. McConnell is lauded as a bandleader and arranger; on “Present Perfect” he shows himself to be a superb trombonist. On “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”, he plays an adventurously off-kilter lead-in to the melody, and then delivers a brilliant valve trombone solo. In 1988, after 20 years with Boss Brass, he accepted a teaching job in California, but returned to Toronto a year later and re-formed the band.
Personnel: Ed Bickert (guitar); Jerry Toth (flute, clarinet, reeds, alto saxophone); Eugene Amaro (flute, clarinet, reeds, tenor saxophone); Dave Caldwell (flute, bass clarinet, reeds, baritone saxophone); Moe Koffman (flute, reeds, soprano saxophone, alto saxophone); Rick Wilkins (clarinet, reeds, tenor saxophone); Arnie Chycoski, Guido Basso, Erich Traugott, Dave Woods, Sam Noto (trumpet, flugelhorn); George Stimpson, Brad Warnaar (French horn); Bob Livingston, Ian McDougall (trombone); Ron Hughes, Dave McMurdo (bass trombone); James Dale (piano, electric piano); Terry Clarke (drums); Marty Morrell (percussion).
Liner Note Author: Hans Hielscher.
Recording information: Sound Stage Studio, Toronto (10/29/1979-10/31/1979).
Translator: Martin Cook.
Arranger: Rob McConnell.
The Boss Brass has always featured some of the finest jazz-oriented session players from Toronto, Canada. Valve trombonist Rob McConnell's swinging arrangements give the orchestra its own personality, as can be heard on this obscure Pausa LP, which was originally put out by the European MPS label. The band performs fresh versions of three swing-era standards (including "You Took Advantage of Me"), a lesser-known tune, and a couple of McConnell originals, including "The Waltz I Blew for You." The key soloists include trumpeters Guido Basso and Sam Noto, altoists Jerry Toth and Moe Koffman, Rick Wilkins and Eugene Amaro on tenors, guitarist Ed Bickert, and McConnell (who is featured on "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes"). Worth searching for, as are virtually all of the recordings by this very consistent big band. ~ Scott Yanow