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Music Review: Buselli Wallarab Jazz Orchestra — Where or When

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What would it sound like if the voices of Lou Rawls and Roy Orbison were blended? 

The answer is on seven of the thirteen tracks on Where or When, the third collaboration involving the Buselli-Wallarab Jazz Orchestra (BWJO) and Everett Greene. Greene has worked on Broadway and sung gospel, blues, and a lot of jazz.  For this project, a smaller ensemble of BWJO members combine to provide a more intimate setting with arrangements designed to compliment the vocalists.

In addition to Greene, guest, Cynthia Lane, provides the vocals on three tracks, “L-O-V-E”, “Avalon”, and “Teach Me Tonight”.  “Avalon” shows she can handle singing with a big band behind her and “Teach Me Tonight” is her best performance of the three — although she doesn’t need much “teaching”.  Lane is a fifteen year veteran of R & B, soul, and jazz and enjoys blending the three genres with a strong voice full of character and emotion.  It’s a shame that this CD doesn’t include a duet with Layne and Greene.

Twenty-one seconds into the first track Greene‘s rich deep voice announces, “My romance, doesn’t have to have a moon….” and a few bars later rises to the upper levels of the staff.  He may not have the four octaves of the legendary Orbison, but he certainly has a noteworthy ability to confidently sing at both ends of the scale — without switching to falsetto.  The title track comes next, “Where or When” and he changes from the tender caress of the opening track to a more upbeat persona — you can hear him smiling!

The smoothness of Lou Rawls comes out in “I’ll be Around”, a track that showcases Greene’s strength as a baritone.  Smooth and mellow tones with the force of an artist who can blossom in front of a big band are the characteristics that make Greene an excellent choice for fronting BWJO.

The closest we get to a duet with these remarkable voices comes on the last two tracks.  Layne covers, “Teach Me Tonight” and Greene closes Where or When with a sensitive but confident “My Funny Valentine”.

The Buselli-Wallarab Jazz Orchestra was formed in 1994 as an instrumental group. They have since become the standard for contemporary big bands.  Listeners will be pleased that vocalists were added and charmed by the choices.  Brent Wallarab plays trombone, Mark Buselli contributes with trumpet and flugelhorn and they both do most of the arranging.  Where or When was recorded in 2006 and released by Owl Studios in 2008. 

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