The moment Nolan Nevels started up his drum work in the opening to Monk's Pannonica, the lead cut here, I knew I was in good hands. That guy's as supple as they come while quite notably accentuative. I love swing and big band music but am always alert for emerging wrinkles in the genre; thus, when the sax went wild further on in the track, well, I was doubly assured Vance Thompson's Five Plus Six was one such unit, working well within the trad framework but taking pains to warp its borders into the same modernity 'le realm anciens' had established after Good Ol King Louie (Armstrong) had lit things up…and I'll reveal ahead of time that Nevels remains a huge presence in affairs throughout the disc, always on top of things and delivering the goods in unexpected fashion, novel and faithful simultaneously.
In fact, as one listens, an attribute that soon emerges is an unusual spread of singularities among the players, clearly seen in Keith Brown's piano travails, a Carnegie Hall style counterpointing the ensemble's frequently over-the-horizon chops but soon joining them as his lines open up and reach into the listener's brain through his ears. It's a striking baseline of grinningly deceptive operation, and Thompson obviously exercised minute discretion in assembling his quint and its inflow (the noted +6). There are eight horn players present all told, Thompson himself on trumpet and flugelhorn, and the augmentation expands the gent's normal fivesome arrangement outwards in all directions, clustering up complicated involvements beautifully. The band in entirety shifts to support each soloist as he rises, especially when Brown enters the ring, but the fashion in which they recover thematics, as in Isfahan is smooth as silk.
Especial attention is paid to Monk and Ellington in Such Sweet Thunder, as you'll note in the song listings below, but what the group does to Dolly Parton's Little Sparrow is a wonder to be-hear. The cut starts deliriously, horns going off everywhere over, with, and behind the lead trumpet (Thompson?, no solo credits are rendered and there are three trumpeters all told) until a collapsing break where everyone flows together to get on the stick in harmony, the brass boys layering up twofold. Thompson arranged the cut, and six others besides, turning it into true jazz art. It's my favorite track and goes through the changes ceaselessly, sax once more going beautifully apeshit, Taylor Coker's bass nailing the fundament down, making sure the rest of the inmates don't wander into an asylum accidentally (or on purpose!). I can well imagine one could dance to this as well, but it sure as hell wouldn't be a foxtrot or tango. Best, perhaps, to just sit and listen; ya wouldn't want to throw out yer sacroiliac but it never hurts to Lindy Hop in your own cerebellum.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2015, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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