Artist: Wayne Alpern
From the fancy-free musings of the horns trotting along “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy,” penned by Joe Zawinul, to the smooth serenade of the horns illuminating Frank Loesser’s number “I’ve Never Been in Love Before,” composer-arranger Wayne Alpern’s latest release Skeleton displays reverence for classic straight-ahead jazz idioms. Treated with valor and esteem, Alpern’s cover of popular jazz standards along with his original composition “Blue Bones” takes audiences back to the foundation of jazz.
Alpern’s original work “Blue Bones” may have been written a century after many of the other works on his CD but listening through the recording, no one could detect the generation gap. The well-scripted bopping of the trombones recalls of vaudeville style minstrels that entertained and amused audiences across the globe, and so too does Alpern’s rendering of jazz music’s early days in this number. The rhythmic grooves strewn across Pharrell Williams’s 2013 popular tune “Happy” basks in splashing horns and the jolly pumping stride of the bass and drums, infusing the millennium hit single with trimmings relatable to jazz music’s foundation.
Going back to popular music’s mid-20th century days, Alpern’s re-make of Jerome Kern’s sunny tune “I’m Old Fashioned” is transformed into an instrumental, gloved in soft rattling drumbeats with an inlay of springy horns glinting a “Singing in the Rain” gait. The sultry swagger of the horns strolling along “At Last,” a popular Etta James tune in its time, injects a ’60s smooth jazz snuggle into the recording. Taking a dip into classic musicals, Alpern’s rendition of “If I Only Had a Brain,” written by Harold Arlen, is sparsely layered and boasts charming trombone curlecues, switching to a reggae-inspired rhythm along Donald Fagen’s popular hit “IGY” spiked in a palisade of jazz-tinged tweets in the horns.
A lifetime member of the Society for Music Theory and American Musicological Society, Alpern has received the highly coveted Society for Music Theory Honorary Lifetime Membership Award. His contemporary vision for classic standards, musicals, and popular tunes shows reverence for the foundation of jazz. Leading a 12-piece orchestra, Alpern modulates the softness and robustness in the geyser of horns with a pristine penmanship, making the arrangements enjoyable for audiences. His reverence for jazz music is inspiring for burgeoning generations that will proceed him.
Trombones – Noah Bless, Mike Boschen, Michael Davis, Nick Grinder, Jason Jackson, Matt McDonald, James Rogers
Trumpet/Flugelhorn – Sam Hoyt, David Smith
Rhythm Section: Billy Test, piano, Evan Gregor, bass, Josh Bailey, drums