In 2004, Carolyn Freeman, Russ Freeman’s widow, decided that she wanted to produce a big band album featuring her husband’s music.
Knowing that Russ had always promoted younger musicians who had talent that he thought should be recognized she heard an arranger’s work at a concert and decided to ask trombonist/composer/arranger Nathan Tanouye to arrange several of Russ’s compositions for big band and then organize, rehearse and record the orchestra. She could not have made a better choice as is evidenced by the music on this CD and the enthusiasm that the professionals display in their performance of Nathan’s charts.
What started out as a fairly standard 5-saxophone, 4-trumpet, French horn, 3-trombone and rhythm-section big band grew into an orchestra that also included a vocalist, flutes, oboe, 10 strings, harp and percussion. Her discovery of vocalist Tyia Wilson performing at the Wynn Las Vegas led not only to Tyia’s inclusion in the recording project but also her employment as lyricist for “When Love Was Lost and Found” and “Safe At Home”.
The Orchestra, a mix of solid young and highly seasoned professionals, is outstandin g both as an ensemble and soloistically. Tanouye has taken a group of superb 50-year-old compositions and arranged them in a fashion that preserves their original integrity while making them sound fresh and new. He has also added a composition of his own, “Crossings”, which he dedicated to Russ Freeman; it also serves as the title tune of the album.
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As a tribute to Russ Freeman, arranger/composer Nathan Tanouye and the Las Vegas Jazz Connection, with vocalists The Cunninghams and Martin Nievera, have produced this album of some of Freeman’s finest work.
An added bonus is Tanouye’s lyrical tribute to Russ, “Peace For Russ”, featuring soloist Bobby Shew-a piece and a performance that awakens the deep feeling of loss from no longer having this giant musica talent among us. Also, Tanouye has put together a barn-burning arrangement of “One On One” from the Shelly Manne and Russ Freeman CD “One On One”, and with the good graces of Contemporary, Russ’s original solo has been interpolated into this track between an outstanding foray by Phil Wigfall and a highly inventive solo by drummer John Abraham.
To cap everything off, the band literally roars. “Music Is Forever” was written by Russ and Annie Ross as a remembrance of all their contemporaries. It is dedicated to Monty Budwig whose loss created the song.