WBGO Radar

Band of Bones: Caravan

Band of Bones Caravan CD cover art

You discern right away that Dave Chamberlain and his Band of Bones have a clean windshield and a full tank of gas.

Their caravan is occupied by nine trombones, a rhythm section built for synergy, a passioned singer and a couple of special guests who wouldn't miss the ride for the world!

For this trip, Band of Bones has packed nine tunes with new clothes they are anxious to show off.

 They start off at full speed, with Jeff Fairbanks' arrangement of the Dizzy Gillespie/Chano Pozo classic "Manteca." As percussionist Chembo Corniel channels Pozo, and drummer Mike Campenni lights a fire, trombonist Nate Mayland and the leader on flute carry on a brisk call-and-response with the ensemble.

Next up is guest harmonicat Hendrik Meurkens' "Slidin," which is also the title track of his 1994 Concord release. Here the tune finds new territory with Chris Rinaman's arrangement, giving this 4/4 chart a nice space for Meurkens' harmonica and Dale Turk's trombone to set the melody for Max Siegel's bass trombone solo.

"When marimba rhythms start to play, dance with me, make me sway, who will it be?" The answer is Dave Chamberlain, arranging "Sway" (Quien Sera), the Pablo Beltran Ruiz classic. Here Chamberlain and Rinaman bring their bones to the front alongside singer Kat Gang, sure to bring out your best mambo moves.

J.J. Johnson's "Lament" is one of the outstanding ballads in the jazz canon. Trombonist John Yao's arrangement shows off the ensemble feel for Matt McDonald and Mark Patterson to take gorgeous solo turns. You also understand why the group's annual J.J. Johnson salute in New York isn't to be missed.

We first became aware of the vocal talents of Kat Gang with her "Copycats And Wannabees" and "Laughing At Loneliness" recordings. With a 4 octave range, her vocal instrument is right there, alongside Nate Mayland on his offering "El Grito de la Culebra" (the Snake's Shout).

"Mr. Johnson" is a muscular tune by pianist Harold Mabern in tribute to J.J., who Mabern worked with in the mid 60's. John Yao's boiling arrangement excites the ensemble, with outstanding solos from bass trombonist Max Siegel and pianist Kenny Ascher.

Trombone master Steve Turre has said  of Band of Bones, "This group makes the listener appreciate the beauty and majesty of the sound of the trombone in an ensemble setting."  After bassist  Jerry Devore's haunting intro,  special guest Steve Turre steps out  on his tune "V.O.," shining as always on trombone and shells,   grooving nicely with Charley Gordon as the ensemble moves through this latin-tinged special.

Juan Tizol's "Caravan," arranged by Bob Suttmann, features Matt McDonald out front, who brings us back home from a trip you now know this group thoroughly enjoyed.

"Caravan" comes out March 11. Band of Bones celebrates the release live at Zinc Bar that night.

    - Gary Walker, WBGO music director

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