Following up his brilliant
Voice Like a Horn, trombonist, vocalist and band leader Pete
McGuinness is back, leading a full orchestra with Strength in
Numbers (Summit Records, 2014).
McGuinness arranged all 10 tracks and composed six. The orchestra is
comprised of a five-piece saxophone section with some players doubling
on flute and others on clarinet, a four-piece trombone section, a
four-piece trumpet section and three-piece rhythm section.
The horns, with emphasis on the woodwinds, flutter like birds flitting
about the landscape during “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?”
It’s a tranquil, charming piece, accented by an easygoing pace and
overlapping phrases by the different sections.
McGuinness eventually introduces his voice, asking the question
presented in the title. His soothing vocal is encouraging. The lyrics
ask a prospective lover what she plans to do and tells her that whatever
her plans, he wants to be part of them. Andy Elau contributes a lovely
“The Swagger” brings a bit more sass and brass. All the horns blend for
the melody but then split with one group calling, another responding and
a third jumping in whenever there’s a chance. Featured soloists are Dave
Reikenberg on baritone sax, Jeff Nelson on bass trombone and Marc
Phaneuf on alto sax. For his part, Nelson takes the instrument down to
its depths, throwing in some grinding, rumbling phrases. Throughout the
triple header, piano, bass and drums strike an ideal balance between
maintaining the rhythm and expressing their own feelings for the music.
“Spellbound,” a McGuinness original, has a haunting mood. The base
rhythm may conjure images of Herbie Hancock’s “Maiden Voyage.” However,
the tune is completely different. Jason Rigby on tenor sax and Chris
Rogers on muted trumpet are featured. During the latter’s solo, the
orchestra builds to a dramatic crescendo, drops off then comes back in
to segue into the main theme.
McGuinness is a 2008 Grammy finalist for his arrangement of Charlie
Chapin’s “Smile,” and won first prize in the 2010 Jazzmobile Vocal
Competition, judged by the later Dr. Billy Taylor and Barry Harris. A
New York resident since 1987, McGuinness has appeared on more than 40
recordings. He studied at the prestigious BMI Jazz Composers Workshop
and has performed with big bands of such leaders as Lionel Hampton,
Jimmy Heath and Maria Schneider. He is active in music education in the
United States and Europe, and is assistant professor of Jazz Arranging
at William Paterson University.
Strength in Numbers is the second release by the Pete
McGuinness Jazz Orchestra and the artist’s fourth as a leader.