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Acoustical Concepts AC-17, 43:50

Review by Craig Nixon

The only curiosity involved is why the name of John Vanore is not more widely known. Or maybe that of trying to keep a big band alive in these economic times. Indeed, three different drummers are employed in the course of Curiosity's eight tracks, telling of separate sessions that comprise this disc, which was originally released in 1991 and sees a crisp remastering for its return here.

Vanore's Philly-based big band is refreshingly tight, brassy without being overbearing. All but one piece here come from pens within the band, and the writing is smart and classy, managing to be modern and mainstream at the same time. Plenty of space is afforded the main soloists, in addition to the leader, tenorist Mike Falcone, alto man Michael Mee and pianist Ron Thomas.

The leader's use of George Barnett's French horn lends a nice spice to the ensemble parts and Barnett gets off a fleet solo of his own on the uptempo "Misdemeanor." Frank Foster's "Simone," which became something of a modern jazz standard in the '70s, is deftly scored for flute and trombone, joined by cup muted trumpet for the second chorus. Vanore has one of his most effective solos of the date here on flugelhorn, followed by an expansive and bluesy tenor solo by Mike Falcone, who fairly burns things up with support from the whole band underneath.

The rhythm section, often given short shrift in many big bands, also gets plenty of space on Curiosity. The leader's ballad "Return" comes right in the middle of the program and dispenses with the big band altogether, a vehicle for Vanore and the piano trio. Indeed, one of the most stirring solo statements on the date comes from bassist Craig Thomas in a long unaccompanied turn on "Dream Dancing." Thomas, whose bass is well captured by the recorded sound, is also a delight backing a muted Vanore on "Return." He also picks up the electric bass for two tracks, the funky "Rude" and the uptempo closer "Motion Potion," which also features an expressive spot on soprano for Michael Mee, which caps the set on a rousing note.

Curiosity is an unexpected treat - modern, swinging big band music with adept soloists, hip writing and arranging, captured nicely by excellent engineering and remastering. LP length at 44 minutes, one only wishes there was more of it.

John Vanore - trumpet, flugelhorn, arranger, producer; Michael Mee - alto and soprano saxophone, flute; Mike Falcone - tenor saxophone, flute; Rocco Bene, Joe Fallon, Brian Groder, Kevin Rodgers - trumpet, flugelhorn; Mike Galan, Jose Vidal - trombone; George Barnett - French horn; Ron Thomas - piano; Craig Thomas - electric and acoustic bass; Joe Nero - drums; Joe Mullen - drums (4 & 8); Dave de Fusco - drums (3)


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