Mike MacAllister Big Band

Finders Keepers

Further proof that if Boston has a music scene, and it very definitely does, it's far too prolific and diverse for us lowly scribes to hang a name or an attitude on it. Which is all too proper. As a New Yorker, I will not trot out the baseball metaphor, incidentally; the last time I saw a Yankee game, Mickey Mantle was in the lineup.

Macallister, a tartly imaginative electric guitarist, has assembled this dynamic 21-piece and written all the music and charts. It's a freight train! Climb on or be a most hopeless (to say nothing of very flat) jade! My taste runs more to the Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra or the late lamented LJCO (Barry Guy's behemoth) but the Stan Kenton-like enthusiasm and the multileveled, multifaceted hooks just pull the listener (me) out of her/his (my) seat, whether they (I) wanna or no. Macallister himself proves to be a stingy soloist whose one step up to the spotlight in the title piece has a 'Maypole dance' sort of feel to it (I recall the British Jazz guitarist Phil Miller doing similar), rather as if he's touching obliquely on the chords but not stating them full on. It's rather akin to keeping the tune's roots a delightful little secret... as if unwilling to acknowledge that the reeds and the brass haven't already blown the cat out of the bag and halfway across the room.

No, I'm sure no animals were injured in the making of this CD. We start off with the title piece's great fanfare, horn subgroups peeling off in different directions and either underlining or refining the forward motion of the ensemble. Seems Macallister has selected complexity and hummability rather than choose between them (works for me); the blustered sense of overwhelming confidence is just too infectious. There's a swagger, a splash of Jordan Person's drums, a cheery filigree of Martha Cipolla's marimba... somebody get this guy a lyricist! I hear a Broadway showman. Ah, now if only a revival of MOST HAPPY FELLA wouldn't cost $12 million... stay at the conductor's podium, Mike. You'll live longer. Our loss.

A certain misterioso infects Rieko Miyoshi's piano while it courses through the open-eyed sense of discovery infusing "Chant." I do believe it's time for the PBS evergreen television program NOVA to change its theme song. Matt Owens name checks Freddie Hubbard in a strong trumpet break replete with those delightful 'smears' and 'dabs' and a few moves of his own, until Ian Rapien's tenor chases off for good what half-hearted blues may remain. Nothing ground breaking here, but as good as modern big-band writing has been lately. And that's just two songs.

Once the peacefully votive 'Guide' starts in you may notice, as I did, that Macallister has very wittily programmed this CD to work just fine as a suite running 42:11 as opposed to five separate tracks. One piece ends, dovetailing efficiently into the next. Nice programming touch. Finishing us off here are the geometric, sophisticated "Kid's Play" and the gently regretful yet still celebratory "Carousel," and I have to say I'm a believer! If you bought the Smithsonian's BIG BAND RENAISSANCE compilation of about a decade back, if you miss the Sauter-Finegan Orchestra, even if you have no idea what I'm talking about,but large-bore composing and arranging are your thing, you will not be disappointed!

by Kenneth Egbert