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Frank Tiberi - 4 Brothers 7 Print E-mail
Sunday, 01 April 2007
format:    16-bit CD
performance:    8
sound:    7
release year:    2007
label:    Jazzed Media
reviewed by:    Scott Yanow

ImageFrank Tiberi has been the leader of the Woody Herman Orchestra ever since Herman’s death in 1987. Although keeping Herman’s musical legacy alive is a worthy cause, it can also be a thankless task. Few big bands other than the Count Basie Orchestra are full-time, and there are times when the Herman band rarely works, despite the impressive musicianship of the sidemen.

4 Brothers 7 teams Tiberi (on tenor and soprano) with six other musicians who at various times worked with Herman, including a few members of the current band: Larry McKenna and John Nugent on tenors, baritonist Mike Brignola, pianist David Berkman, bassist Lynn Seaton and drummer Matt Wilson. The title of the disc can be taken a couple of different ways. Jimmy Giuffre’s “Four Brothers” became such a trademark song for Herman in 1947 that that edition of his orchestra became known as “The Four Brothers Band,” utilizing three tenors and a baritone in addition to Herman’s alto. Calling this album 4 Brothers 7 can be interpreted to it being by the Four Brothers Septet, since there are three tenors and one baritone. The fact that there are 11 songs (4 + 7) adds to the logic of the title.
The music on this CD has several sources as inspiration. In 1957 there was a recorded reunion of the 1947-8 saxophone section (other than Stan Getz) on an album titled Four Brothers Together Again. Other than the fact that this new recording uses the same instrumentation, it also utilizes the arrangement of “Four Brothers” from the reunion LP rather than emulating the original recording. Several of the songs in the repertoire were formerly played by Herman’s orchestra, and three (“Woody’s Whistle,” “Woody’s Lament” and Dizzy Gillespie’s “Woody ‘N You”) are named after Herman. In addition, Tiberi has long been interested in and influenced by John Coltrane’s music, and he performs a 12/8 version of Coltrane’s “Central Park West” and utilizes Trane’s “Giant Steps” chord changes on “The Garz and I,” a tribute to saxophonist George Garzone. Finally, two songs from a four-tenor session in 1956 that featured Coltrane, Al Cohn, Zoot Sims and Hank Mobley (“Just You, Just Me” and “Tenor Conclave”) are revived and given similar arrangements to the earlier recordings.

The arrangements keep the music from being a jam session, even though this set has the feel of a jam. While I wish that a few more of the ensembles were improvised, the solos are consistently heated and inspired, even the briefer ones. On numbers such as “The Goof and I” and “Four of a Kind,” the spirit of this one-time septet is infectious, and it would be difficult to pick out an individual solo star. In addition to the saxes, pianist David Berkman is heard from while bassist Lynn Seaton bows his bass during solos, sometimes humming along a la Major Holley.

Fans of bebop, Woody Herman and straight-ahead jazz in general will enjoy 4 Brothers 7, one of Frank Tiberi’s best recordings.

Recording four saxophones, particularly three tenors, may be a daunting task but the folks at Sear Sound in New York did an expert job. Listeners will have no trouble picking out each of the saxophonists, or hearing the members of the rhythm section, even during the most heated passages.

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