Personnel: Gary Smulyan (baritone saxophone); Scott Robinson (bass clarinet, soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone); Dick Oatts (alto saxophone); Joe Magnarelli (trumpet); John Clark (French horn); John Fedchock (trombone); Pete Malinverni (piano); Andy McKee (bass instrument); Steve Johns (drums).
Liner Note Author: Bob Bernotas.
Recording information: Avatar Studios, New York, NY (04/19/2008).
Photographer: Ron Teeples.
Arranger: Mark Masters.
The late Frankie Laine is most remembered as a popular singer of the post-World War II period into the 1960s, though he was a talented lyricist who contributed a number of memorable songs, a few of which have become standards. Baritone saxophonist Gary Smulyan conceived this tribute several years prior to Laine's death in early 2007, though recording didn't take place until a year after the singer's passing. Smulyan -- whose melodic baritone makes him the logical heir to Gerry Mulligan -- recruited the gifted arranger Mark Masters and some of the top instrumentalists in greater New York City (including trumpeter Joe Magnarelli, trombonist John Fedchock, alto saxophonist Dick Oatts, multi-reed player Scott Robinson, and French horn player John Clark). "High Noon," from the movie soundtrack penned by Dimitri Tiomkin, was a vocal hit for Laine, though Masters' imaginative chart expands considerably on this relatively simple composition, filled with terrific solos and colorful backgrounds, highlighted by the leader's baritone and Robinson's bass clarinet. The bluesy "Torchin'" is an obscure work with music by Laine and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner, in which a bit of playfulness is incorporated into its somber atmosphere. The moody "A Man Ain't Supposed to Cry" evokes the emotion of Joe Williams' vocal version through Smulyan's magical baritone sax. Several of Laine's collaborations with composer Carl Fischer are included, highlighted by the standard "We'll Be Together Again," a brilliant, understated duet by Smulyan and pianist Pete Malinverni. ~ Ken Dryden
Down Beat (p.62) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "The band establishes an ebullient, optimistic tone right out of the gate....This is a sweet project, one that manages to dip into two nostalgias -- pop melodies and 'cool' arranging -- yet still sound fresh and present."
JazzTimes (pp.82-83) - "[A] top-flight nonet album....HIGH NOON hits like a gil Evans opus, a Cubist refraction of the tune in shifting tempos and meters framing a series of solos over an E-flat blues scaffold..."