Review by Craig Nixon
The only curiosity
involved is why the name of John Vanore is not more widely known. Or maybe that
of trying to keep a big band alive in these economic times. Indeed, three different
drummers are employed in the course of Curiosity's eight tracks, telling
of separate sessions that comprise this disc, which was originally released
in 1991 and sees a crisp remastering for its return here.
big band is refreshingly tight, brassy without being overbearing. All but one
piece here come from pens within the band, and the writing is smart and classy,
managing to be modern and mainstream at the same time. Plenty of space is afforded
the main soloists, in addition to the leader, tenorist Mike Falcone, alto man
Michael Mee and pianist Ron Thomas.
The leader's use
of George Barnett's French horn lends a nice spice to the ensemble parts and
Barnett gets off a fleet solo of his own on the uptempo "Misdemeanor."
Frank Foster's "Simone," which became something of a modern jazz standard
in the '70s, is deftly scored for flute and trombone, joined by cup muted trumpet
for the second chorus. Vanore has one of his most effective solos of the date
here on flugelhorn, followed by an expansive and bluesy tenor solo by Mike Falcone,
who fairly burns things up with support from the whole band underneath.
The rhythm section,
often given short shrift in many big bands, also gets plenty of space on Curiosity.
The leader's ballad "Return" comes right in the middle of the program
and dispenses with the big band altogether, a vehicle for Vanore and the piano
trio. Indeed, one of the most stirring solo statements on the date comes from
bassist Craig Thomas in a long unaccompanied turn on "Dream Dancing."
Thomas, whose bass is well captured by the recorded sound, is also a delight
backing a muted Vanore on "Return." He also picks up the electric
bass for two tracks, the funky "Rude" and the uptempo closer "Motion
Potion," which also features an expressive spot on soprano for Michael
Mee, which caps the set on a rousing note.
is an unexpected treat - modern, swinging big band music with adept soloists,
hip writing and arranging, captured nicely by excellent engineering and remastering.
LP length at 44 minutes, one only wishes there was more of it.
John Vanore - trumpet,
flugelhorn, arranger, producer; Michael Mee - alto and soprano saxophone, flute;
Mike Falcone - tenor saxophone, flute; Rocco Bene, Joe Fallon, Brian Groder,
Kevin Rodgers - trumpet, flugelhorn; Mike Galan, Jose Vidal - trombone; George
Barnett - French horn; Ron Thomas - piano; Craig Thomas - electric and acoustic
bass; Joe Nero - drums; Joe Mullen - drums (4 & 8); Dave de Fusco - drums