Ray Anderson: The Literary Lizard


The Literary Lizard


Ray Anderson (trombone)


Big Band Records (Gramavision 79497)

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Ray Anderson (trombone), George Gruntz (piano), Lew Soloff (trumpet), Drew Gress (bass), Tom Rainey (drums),

Ryan Kisor, John D’Earth, Herb Robertson (trumpets), Art Baron, Dave Bargeron (trombones), Dave Taylor (bass trombone), Howard Johnson (tuba, baritone sax), Tim Berne, Sal Giorgianni (alto saxes), Marty Ehrlich (alto, clarinet, soprano, bass clarinet), Ellery Eskelin, Larry Schneider (tenor saxes), Mark Feldman (violin)


Composed by Ray Anderson. Arranged by George Gruntz


Recorded: New York City, Jan. 11-13, 1994


Rating: 96/100 (learn more)

It's fitting that the rambunctious and irrepressible trombonist Ray Anderson has recorded with both the George Gruntz Concert Jazz Band and Pierre DÝrge's New Jungle Orchestra. Only big bands of that adventurous nature--think also Carla Bley's Big Band and the Vienna Art Orchestra--could allow him free rein and thus properly utilize his immense talent. Big Band Record consists of nine Anderson originals performed by the George Gruntz Concert Jazz Band, including Anderson himself. The wacky tune "The Literary Lizard" had appeared on Gruntz's 1992 Beyond Another Wall: Live in China CD, with Anderson and Lew Soloff squaring off improvisationally. (The composition also is heard on Anderson's 1989 small group What Because, but with the title "Alligatory Crocodile.")

The 1994 version of "The Literary Lizard" expands on all the whimsical funkiness inherent in its swaying, boisterous theme, with a blending of horns--whether in unison or contrapuntally--that is both rich and joyful. After Gruntz's somewhat honky-tonk piano solo, and an edgy, piercing improv from altoist Giorgianni, Anderson and Soloff reunite in a frenzied dialogue that often makes it impossible to separate the two, except when Soloff reaches for the stratosphere and Anderson slides to the murky depths. Anderson then takes over and displays his amazing combination of technical command and fertile imagination both tonally and in his phraseology

Reviewer: Scott Albin

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