April 2009

Buselli-Wallarab Jazz Orchestra – Where or When
Owl Studios OWL00119
Format: CD
Released: 2008

by Joseph Taylor

Musical Performance ***1/2
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****

The Indianapolis-based Buselli-Wallarab Jazz Orchestra often employs up to 17 musicians, but, as Brent Wallareb describes it in his liner notes, Where or When uses a "smaller big-band formation." The 13 standards on the disc are arranged for 11 instruments, with an emphasis on the warm, lower-register brass. Where or When is a vocal jazz album, and on it the orchestra is joined by Everett Greene, who has sung with it on two previous discs, and Cynthia Layne. Greene’s deep baritone is a wonderfully expressive instrument, and his readings of such chestnuts as "I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face" and "My Funny Valentine" are fresh and sensitive. The latter has certainly been recorded too often, but Greene brings such a sure touch to it that it’s a pleasure to hear. Layne’s three tunes are also very enjoyable, and she sings with confidence and verve.

The arrangements, all but two by Wallarab, are remarkably subtle and give firm support to the vocal performances. On some tracks, such as "My Romance" and "I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face," the accompaniment is spare, with the orchestra providing only occasional emphasis. Greene and Layne respond with unabashed delight to the fuller, harder-swinging arrangements on "This Can’t Be Love" and "Avalon," while the orchestra’s talented musicians get to show off on two instrumentals.

Where or When is very nicely recorded, with a luxuriously deep soundstage and vocals focused just in front of the orchestra. Buselli-Wallarab Orchestra features these songs in its annual Valentine’s Day concerts, but Where or When is a tribute to romantic love songs that you can enjoy any time of the year.