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Jazz CD Review: Jim Waller Big Band "Bucket List"     

By Allen Michie         Artsfuse.org            April19, 2021

Bucket List checks every box on the big band wish list: a tight band with a mix of studio pros and locals, an ingenue singer with a career to launch, swinging arrangements, a variety of grooves, solid solos, and plenty of that crowd-pleasing big band punch.

Jim Waller Big Band: Bucket List (self-produced, jimwallerbigband.com)

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So, what’s on your bucket list? If you’re a jazz musician, odds are good it includes a gig at the Village Vanguard, having bassist Ron Carter on your record, and playing the Montreux Jazz Festival. Another daydream can be found on most every jazz musician’s mid-life crisis menu, a goal shared by traditionalist and avant-garde experimentalist alike: recording a big band album. A good one. A beautifully recorded two-disk set. One

 that features your compositions, arrangements, and solos. And, of course, one that gets a rave review in The Arts Fuse.

I don’t know if San Antonio-based Jim Waller has played the Vanguard or recorded with Ron Carter, but he has played Montreux with the University of the Incarnate Word jazz ensemble which he directs. And now, with Bucket List, he’s recorded his dream big band record, and it checks every box: a tight band with a mix of studio pros and locals, an ingenue singer with a career to launch, swinging arrangements, a variety of grooves, solid solos, and plenty of that crowd-pleasing big band punch! and pow!

Waller is a journeyman multi-instrumentalist (mostly tenor sax and keyboards) who has played in a surf band, the jazz/rock combo Los Blues, and the bands of a host of jazz and R&B musicians in and out of Las Vegas. He’s also a producer and audio engineer who can build recording studios as well as he structures tenor sax solos. The album cover boasts of something called the “closed loop analog signal processing system.” All I know is that recording sounds intimate and warm with great presence and separation.

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Music Reviews: Big Band Blues and Jazz from Swingadelic, Jim Waller Big Band, Ian Charleton Big Band       by Jon Sobel, BLOGCRITICS.ORG - May 5, 2021

Jim Waller Big Band: Bucket List

Where the blues informed Swingadelic's latest, the debut big-band album from arranger and multi-instrumentalist Jim Waller takes pages from funk, fusion, sophisticated swing and other styles. Waller shows off his exceptional arranging chops throughout the set. About half the tracks are his originals, including the spiky leadoff track "Samba for Suzell," which displays the band's tightness and the leader-arranger's rhythmic and harmonic creativity and skill at crafting exciting group riffage.

Waller put together the band for this recording, but they sound as if they could have been gigging meatily for years. Vocalist Jacqueline Sotelo joins in with easygoing little-girl vocals and a brilliant scat on her first of five features, Peggy Lee's "I Love Being Here With You." Waller's velvety tenor sax features on a number of tunes, including the sensitive original "A Ballad for Bob." A relaxed mode of funk settles in with his deceptively complex "New Blue Funk," his fusiony "Funksuite 109," and "Waltz for Laura" which has a whiff a funky choppiness in its 3/4 beat.

"Georgia on My Mind" and "God Bless the Child" take on a modern sound via a series of feel changes as Sotelo's sweet, elastic vocals keep them grounded. And just try not to smile at what she does with the melody of the old chestnut "Goody Goody." Her slinky approach to "Who Don't You Do Right" plays neatly with the progressive harmonic movement in the horns. More inventive still is a highly original seven-minute arrangement of "Rhapsody in Blue," a string-enhanced mini-epic of diverse beats and adventurous harmonics encircling Gershwin's indelible themes.

Inventive and playful, Bucket List's mix of classics and originals is a bright delight for the ear.

Whole review - No link

Jim Waller Big Band: Bucket List

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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.

Whole review - No link

Jim Waller Big Band: Bucket List

By Gordon Jack of Jazz Journal in the UK • December 19, 2020

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.

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Colorful, Catchy Big Band Jazz!

Jim Waller Big Band: Bucket List

By Dick Metcalf, editor, Contemporary Fusion Reviews • September 13, 2020

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.

OUTSTANDING JAZZ ARRANGERS & COMPOSERS

Jim Waller Big Band: Bucket List

By Dee Dee McNeil / Jazz journalist - Musical Memoirs • October 13, 2020

Dee Dee McNeil's review also appears in lajazzscene.buzz (scroll way down for review)

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.

Jim Waller Big Band: Bucket List

By Bill Kopp in musoscribe • November, 2020

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

Jim Waller Big Band: Bucket List

By Jim Hynes in makingascene.org • September 6, 2020

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.