I’m always amazed at the number of bands of young musicians around the country, rehearsing regularly and playing gigs at small clubs. One of these is Elliot Deutsch's Southern California-based ensemble, which roars onto the scene in its debut release Weeknight Music.
These unheralded 17 players reach near cohesive brilliance in a selection of seven originals written by Deutsch, trumpeter Brian Owen and tenor saxophonist Jimmy Emerzian, augmented with four sterling standards.
All arrangements are by Deutsch. It is clear he has listened to big band greats. On some numbers, the influence of Count Basie is palpable – buoyant sax section, in front of a solid, assertive horn section. Others suggest the brash, hard-charging sound of a Woody Herman.
These comparison are not to say the band is stuck in the past. On the contrary, the charts are fresh and of today.
Deutsch, on trumpet, delivers several quality solos. He has been on the Los Angeles Jazz scene since 2007, having graduated with a Masters at CSU Long Beach, studying trumpet under respected jazz veteran Bobby Rodriguez. As well, Deutsch has taught at Cal Tech in Pasadena. He has played with such varied stars as Lalo Schifrin, BB King, Jason Mraz, Kenny Burrell, Les McCann, Hubert Laws and Rodriguez.
Besides Deutsch, the albums first-rate solists are Emerzian and Owen, as well as trombonists Nick DePinna, Ermuelito Navarro and Paul Young, alto sax Will Vargas, tenor sax Ken Moran, baritone sax Stephan Cardenas and pianist Nick Paul. Besides delivering “kicking” solos, drummer Adam Alesi is a strong presence on all pieces.
The CD starts with a blistering take on Irving’s Berlin’s venerable “Cheek to Cheek.” In this, rapid-fire phrasing on solos by Owen and Depinna, give way to a torrid foray by Alesi on drums.
Best of the Basie-flavored numbers is Victor Young’s “When I Fall in Love” Nick Paul’s piano sets the mellow mood, accentuated by wispy saxes. This opening sets up Moran's tenor in an extended solo which becomes increasingly assertive until it breaks out above the band, soaring over the shouting horns. A “Countish” piano tinkle finishes off the wonderful groove.
The Herman touch is felt in Deutsch’s “Yeah...We’re Sleeping Together.” This bright and lively piece re-fashions “Just Friends.” Here, Owens delivers another vibrant trumpet solo, followed by the band's “five brothers” on sax – Cardenas, Moran, Emerzian, Vargas, and alto man Dan Kaneyuki.
The bandleader gives himself time to shine on Hoagy Carmichael’s “Nearness of You.” The pulsating chart, with brasses loud and clear a la Stan Kenton, is capped by Deutsch’s lyric trumpet interlude.
Full of many fine moments this album warrants more from this young band.