The Jeff Benedict Big Big Band – The Weather Is Here, Wish You Were Beautiful
Jeff Benedict released his first big band album, Holmes, in 2015 and I was thrilled to be able to review that one. That album took beautiful standards and classics and reinterpreting them in a big band format. Benedict and Company returns with The Weather is Here, Wish You were Beautiful and delights us all over again with several of the same players as before.
The Jeff Benedict Big Band is trumpets: Steve hawk (lead), Kevin Mayse, Brian Bettger, and Tom Tallman; trombones: Paul McKee (lead), Jacques Voyemant, and Alex Henderson; bass trombone-Jerry Armoury; saxophones: Jeff Benedict (soprano/alto), Adrian Williams (aolto), Ken Foerch (tenor), Jeff Ellwood (tenor) and Charlie Richardson (baritone); guitar-Dave Askren; Piano- Jeff Hellmer; Bass-Jonathan Pintoff; Drumms and Percussion- Dean Koba.
The album kicks off with Moonscape, a Benedict original. Pintoff’s cool bass line anchors the piece as the horns expound on the theme alongside Askren’s riveting guitar. It is a well-written and fascinating piece and a splendid way to introduce what is to come in the rest of the album.
Nardis is, of course, the smoking hot Miles Davis song that gets a throbbing introduction with the basses and baritones nailing down some bone-crushing funk lines that the piano and saxes work on top of. Hellmer’s piano work is excellent and Benedict’s soprano sax is so fine.
The Fotomat Song is an arrangement of Frank Churchill’s 1937 Someday My Prince Will Come from Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Of course, Dave Brubeck, Bill Evans, Miles Davis and several others rendered Jazz versions of it, making it a standard part of Jazz repertoire. Benedict takes the waltz and transforms it into more of a samba. Paul McKee (trombone) and Benedict (soprano) are featured and the results are swinging and beautiful.
The title song, The Weather is Here, Wish You were Beautiful, is a bluesy straight-up Jazz piece that is reflective of L.A.’s culture of flash and style. The piece is a rollicking piece, filled with excellent solos from Hellmer on piano, Paul McKee on trombone, Charlie Richard on baritone sax, and Jeff Ellwood on tenor sax. The solos are mesmerizing and the rhythms are tight and captivating. Ellwood’s album The Sounds Around the House from 2020 makes him an especially welcome member of this big band. The guy just smokes.
Armadillo Research is another bluesy piece but with a more andante pacing and is suitable for fine solos from McKee, Koba (drums) and from Benedict himself. Benedict solos on the alto sax to great effect. Koba’s solo is hearty and hardy. All good stuff.
Ant Dance is inspired by Pat Metheny whose style was also represented on Holmes. Benedict digs Metheny but who doesn’t? After a slowish opening, the band picks it up the tempo and sets up cools solos from Benedict on alto sax and, of course, a guitar solo from Askren. Hellmer plays in the spirit of Lyle Mays in a wide open venture that is lovely and wondrous.
Cheek to Cheek is a saxophone section number that draws deeply from the Irving Berlin 1935 song. The sax arrangement is tight and demanding. Hellmer once again gets an exquisite piano solo.
The Mighty Dollar is composed by David Arnay. The sound is reminiscent of a marching New Orleans horn ensemble with the bass line carried by bass trombonist Jerry Amoury. This was well worth the hearing. Benedict and Ellwood also get sax solos in this lively piece of fun.
Tom and Jerry is referring to Tom Scott and Jerry Hey, those two phenomenal and sought-after L.A. session musicians. Tom Scott was in the renowned L.A. Express and Jerry Hey in Seawind. Benedict takes on the Scott sax part with Brian Bettger doing Hey’s trumpet. A tight piece with funky rhythms and loads of fun to play loudly.
The album closes with Hikky Burr by Quincy Jones. This is how you leave it all on the field. Everybody gets their shot here with ripping trumpet from Steve hawk and in-your-face solos from Ellwood (tenor sax) and Askren (guitar). Pintoff gets in some fantastic piano licks and the whole trombone section lights your hair on fire. What an excellent way to send you home.
The Weather is Here, Wish You Were Beautiful is as fun as the title indicates. More than fun, it is fascinating. Jeff Benedict has given us another great gift, bringing together the arrangements and the artists to make these standards and classic live again in big band style.