Scott Whitfield is a Los Angeles-based trombone player for whom the word “multi-tasking” could have been created. In addition to playing his favorite instrument, he is a composer, arranger and a now-and-then vocalist. He maintains two orchestras, Scott Whitfied’s Jazz Orchestra East and Scott Whitfield’s Jazz Orchestra West, plus the Scott Whitfield Quintet in his city of residence, Los Angeles.
Whitfield has appeared on a handful of albums of his own and over 50 other disks as a backing artist. Albums by people such as Frank Sinatra, Cedar Walton, Robert Goulet, Barry Manilow, Vic Damone, Phil Woods, Nat Adderley, the Clare Fischer Big Band, Bill Allred, and others.
Whitfield is also Professor Scott Whitfield in his role at San Jose State University in San Jose California, and from 1998 to 2002 he was on the jazz faculty at Rutgers University.
The Scott Whitfield album I want to write about this time is his 2006 release on the Summit label, “Live At Charlie O’s.”
The personnel for this live outing are:
Scott Whitfield, trombone, vocals (tracks 4 and 7)
Roger Neumann, tenor sax, soprano sax, flute (track 5)
John Rangell, piano (tracks 1, 4, 5 and 7)
Bob Florence, piano (tracks 2, 3, 6 and 8)
Jennifer Leitham, bass
Kendall Kay, drums
This album gives us eight tracks, evenly split between Whitfield’s own compositions and songs written by others. “Postage Due,” the opener, is one of Whitfield’s and is probably my favorite song on this disk. This one jumps right out of the starting gate and doesn’t let up. Each of the band members gets his turn in the limelight as they work their way through eight and a half minutes of pure bop delight.
Here’s a clue what you’re in for: At eight and a half minutes long, there are only two songs here that are of shorter duration! Everything that follows is a stretched out, extended exercise in superb musicianship.
Up next is “Blue Daniel,” written by the late trombonist Frank Rosolino. I don’t recall hearing that name before, so I took a look online, and I was not prepared for what I found. Read this while you listen to “Blue Daniel,” and try to picture how the man who could create so much beauty could, in the end, create such a terrible tragedy.
“Blue Daniel” is a pleasant, happy song, and I dare you to try to feel blue while listening to it. The audience was not shy about expressing their appreciation, and I’m sure you will agree.
“A Message From The Captain” follows. This is another of Whitfield’s compositions and has a more mellow pace than either of its predecessors. Bob Florence is a particular standout on this one, and the audience was again not bashful about showing their appreciation.
Neumann’s sax kicks off “Let’s Get Lost” but is shortly overtaken by Whitfield in vocal mode. He has an engaging singing voice, and brings a sort of “Hey, I don’t normally do this, but you love me anyway, right?” attitude to the music. Unfortunately he didn’t leave it at that, and his singing quickly devolves into a sort of scat. The audience gives him some polite applause when he finishes and Neumann returns with the sax, but I think Whitfield would have been better off sticking with the straight vocal.
Luckily for us “Let’s Get Lost” is the longest song on the album, running over twelve minutes long. After Whitfield drops the experiment in scat (not to be confused with, although similar to the old Glenn Ford move, “Experiment In Terror,” heh) he buckles down and gives us some serious bop, with Neumann on sax and Rangell on piano giving standout performances that the audience loved and you will too.
I’m running behind on this, thanks to having been hijacked by my side journey into the tragic life and death of trombonist Frank Rosolino, so I think I’ll just discuss one more great track from this album. On the plus side, that way you’ll have more to discover and enjoy for yourself. J
The last song on this great album is “Bye Bye Blues,” written by David Bennett, Chauncey Gray and Bert Lown. Kay and his drums open this one quietly enough, and is quickly joined by both Whitfield and Neumann. After Neumann steps back, Whitfield takes charge and gives us a magnificent performance.
Then Neumann is back again, giving us a great bit of blowing that will leave you shaking your head and wondering where has this fantastic sax player been all your life before now.
At this point Bob Florence rolls his piano up to the mic and really goes to town with a fantastic solo that the audience, perhaps now brain dead from too much booze, only gave a smattering of applause to and that was their fucking loss.
Florence is followed by Leitham with a superb performance on the bass before we go back to Whitfield, then to Kay, then back to Florence, then to Kay again, and ’round and ’round we go and when they stop you won’t want to go!
You know what I’m going to say now, don’t you? Yep. I am absolutely certain that you will find “Live At Charlie O’s” from the Scott Whitfield Quartet to be a fantastic addition to your own personal playlist, for a Saturday or any other night!
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