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When you hear this set of a dozen classic tunes, you have to wonder why this kind of sound isn’t heard more often.

Music Review: Various Artists – ‘Four Horns and a Lush Life’ [Remastered]

Although credited to “Various Artists,” Four Horns and a Lush Life, which joins the parade of Bethlehem vinyl recordings reissued on remastered CDs by Naxos of America, features a trombone-heavy ensemble of all-stars playing Russ Garcia arrangements under the Garcia leadership. The octet, which has a distinctive sound rarely heard on jazz recordings today, has Frank Rosolino, Herbie Harper and Tommy Pederson on slide trombone and Maynard Ferguson on valve trombone. Dick Holgate plays baritone sax. The pianist is Marty Paich; Stan Levey is on drums and the bassist is the fine Red Mitchell. When you hear what they can do with this set of a dozen classic tunes, you have to wonder why this kind of sound isn’t heard more often.

four hornsWhether playing individually or as an ensemble, this is a group of musicians ripe for the exploration of the trombone-based soundscape. They take the Garcia arrangements and run with them. Luckily for the modern listener, the album’s liner notes by Joe Quinn give a complete breakdown of soloists for each of the songs. After all, you can’t tell the players without a scorecard. Here for example is part of his note for their gorgeous version of “But Beautiful”: “This lovely melody is played through just once, yet in the course of it the lead goes from Tommy Pederson to obligato by Herbie Harper to lead by Maynard Ferguson.”

They open with “I’ll Never Forget What’s Her Name,” a Garcia composition with solos from all four ‘bones. Rodgers and Hart’s “Dancing on the Ceiling” gets fine work from Paich and Mitchell after the trombone solos, while Paich has the lone solo on “The Boy Next Door.” “Just One of Those Things” has the baritone sax contrasting with the horns, and there is a joyful romp through the “Limehouse Blues.”

Billy Strayhorn’s “Lush Life” combines brass and piano with Harper handling the lead. “Lover, Come Back to Me” is the longest piece in the set allowing for contributions from nearly everyone. The album closes with “Someone to Watch Over Me” and “What Is This Thing Called Love.”

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