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Jim Waller Big Band: Bucket List
By George W. Harris of Jazz Weekly • December 12, 2020
Big band leader Jim Waller plays tenor sax, soprano sax and Hammond organ, along with composing a few tracks here mixed in with standards for a bold and beautiful 20+ member team. There’s even a string section brought in for a dramatic take of “Rhapsody In Blue” that has the sax section lusciously framing the leader’s own tenor solo. Vocalist Jacqueline Sotelo gets sassy on voice and while scatting on the hip read of “I Love Being Here With You” and cozy on the back beating “Goody Goody” while gliding through "Georgia On My Mind" with the
sweetness of a mint julep. The rhythm shuffles strong under Joey Colarusso’s bari sax on “Blues For Los Blues” and pianist Chris Villanueva and drummer Will Kennedy propel the fertile latin soil on “Samba For Suzell”. The sections are strong, and the team shows its plugged in side on the foot stomping “Funksuite 109” with Waller wailing on the organ and Jason Valdez searing on the guitar. Swinging sounds.
That's the whole article so no link for this one
The big-band era is a distant memory but the genre still has much to offer as multi-instrumentalist Jim Waller shows on the many moods of his debut album. The personnel, except for drummer Will Kennedy who is with the Yellowjackets, are new to me but they are clearly tip-top professionals able to interpret Waller’s eclectic charts while contributing memorable solos. With the opening Samba For Suzell we are in Tito Puente territory. Waller’s tenor dances inventively over the buoyant rhythm and Chris Villanueva contributes a fundamental ingredient to the samba idiom - the montuno.
Colorful catchy big band jazz Jim Waller Big Band – BUCKET LIST: I started off with the splendid Hammond B3 filled "New Blue Funk", (Jim plays the B3 like a true master, as well as excellent tenor and soprano sax)… one of the rockin’est jazz tunes I’ve heard (yet) in 2020. Though I looked, I couldn’t find a LIVE video of the group, but the entire album will be available to you when you SUBSCRIBE to the Jim Waller Big Band topic channel.
Some might consider Jim Waller an over-achiever. He is a competent player of alto & soprano saxophones, the trombone, organ, piano and is a well-respected arranger and composer. No wonder that he found himself eager to put together a big band to interpret his original compositions and play his arrangements. The “Bucket List” album presents a number of familiar standard songs with five of Waller’s original songs included. You could say this 21-piece Jim Waller Big Band is a big accomplishment from his personal bucket list.
Anyone with the persistence of vision to organize a big band in 2020 deserves praise, if only in recognition of the challenges they’ve certainly faced and overcome. But Bucket List earns my admiration because it’s a fine album as well. With a mix of originals (by saxophonist and band leader Waller) and classics (by Hoagy Carmichael, Gershwin, Billie Holiday etc.) it’s a delight start to finish. There’s Latin-flavored material (“Samba for Suzell”), but most of Bucket List is uptempo, brassy, sexy stuff. Even the vocals and occasional scatting – characteristics I don’t usually enjoy in this context – are top-rate. Great stuff.
Whole review - No link
Have you ever noticed that the word ‘debut” appears often on these pages for upstart and veteran jazz artists alike? Yes, we now bring you yet another from veteran multi-instrumentalist, composer, arranger, and educator Jim Waller. As the title indirectly suggests, this is Waller’s fulfillment of a dream – his first big band album. He leads a 21-piece ensemble with vocalist Jacqueline Sotelo on five cuts, the standards; and esteemed Yellow Jackets drummer Will Kennedy driving the band for 14 selections that run well over an hour. Waller provides all arrangements, 7 of the 14 compositions and several tenor solos while also contributing on soprano and organ. The material covers a wide swath from Latin to swing to funk to straight-ahead standards. Variety is an integral part of Waller’s DNA.