But the debut of Mr. Cullum's seven-piece group roused the audience to show-stopping cheers as it built dazzling, individualized performances of small group classics of 1920's originated by Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong and others. The septet had an exuberant spirit that flooded through both the ensemble and solos as the group expanded familiar routines with stop=time duets, breaks and fresh voicings.
The key member of the group was Allan Vaché, a clarinetist whose solos were strong and full bodied, sometimes suggesting the overwhelming intensity of Sidney Bechet. This became
most apparent when Mr. Vaché gave the ensembles a colorful lift as he soared above the other horns. Mr. Cullum, a cornetist and Mike Pitsley, a trombonist, contributed to the strength of a very positive front line, which was backed by a rhythm section that managed to blend the chunky sturdiness of the 1920's rhythms with the smoother flow of the Swing Era.
For bright, swinging clarinet of the classic school there is much to choose from right now; Davern's new Breezin' Along, Harry Skoler's Reflections On The Art Of Swing and this delightful sextet from Allan Vache, Swing And Other Things. Vache is the proprietor of a big, rich, round tone across all registers and swings with a fierce, caution-to-the-wind abandon. At fast tempos on June Night, Limehouse Blues, Hi Ya Sophia and others, the pull between the creative freedom and ensemble exactness generates a powerful and fascinating tension and cohesion. On the one duet (He Loves And She Loves) he and pianist Johnny Varro strike up the kind of rarefied elegance Benny Goodman and Jimmy Rowles used to get.
Small group swing is a devilishly precision mechanism governed by strict balances and formalities that the listener is reminded of only when they are jarred out of position. Such music offers no camouflage in which to cover errors and suffers fakers without mercy. Vache's associates here are about as good as they come and fuse into a wonderfully cohesive ensemble. The clarinetist's brother, cornetist Warren, cameos on a bright Cheek To Cheek at the end. —John McDonough
The swing of the title is palpable throughout this album, especially Limehouse Blues, Cheek to Cheek and Benny Goodman's Rachel's Dream. On these and the other selections Clarinetist Vaché captivates you with his propulsive phrasing, harmonic momentum and Artie Shaw-like high notes. This is swing in the Goodman tradition. (The comparison is aided by John Cocuzzi's Hampton-ish vibes.
The rhythm section — guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli, pianist Johnny Varro, bassist Frank Tate and drummer Ed Metz, Jr. — prjects a loose, effortless bouyancy. Pizzarelli's chorded solos are smooth and warm on Nancy (With the Laughing Face) and You Turned the Tables on Me. Varro takes several fluid Teddy Wilson-ish solos throughout the album. Cornetist Warren Vaché , Jr. the leader's brother, joins the group on Cheek to Cheek, a hard-swinging romp that you don't want to end.