On this recording Russ Phillips easily convinces all listeners that he is truly one of the finest trombonists in Chicago. His tone is round and full in all registers and he has a well-defined approach to improvising. His creativity lets us know that he is well aware of the history of the instrument, without running the cliches and makes everything sound easy!
Russ also surrounds himself with great music and musicians. Pianist Bobby Schiff has a great role here as producer, musical director and arranger for the rhythm section, Russ’s one-man trombone choir and the Revolution Ensemble String Quartet. Schiff gives us a very clever use of Bach in his intro to You Must Believe In Spring—gorgeous 4-part writing for trombones and overall use of the strings, beautiful without becoming annoyingly sweet. Overdubbing Russ’s trombone in some of the arrangements gives the recording a large ensemble feel worth the price of the recording!
The program highlights many standards that have not been over-played, gems that deserve to be heard more often: Vic Dickenson’s All My Love, Strayhorn’s A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing and Ellington’s Azalea are some of the programming highlights here. Old Devil Moon gives us a trombone duet (from the solitary Russ) complete with solo trading that really works!
Although Russ’s trombone is the feature here the other musicians shine brightly. Bassist Stewart Miller and drummer Charlie Braugham join pianist Bobby Schiff, all of whom never play a bad note. Chicago favorite Jeannie Lambert also joins for a few fine vocals on Isn’t It a Lovely Day and Blues in the Night.
I’m certain that Russ has accumulated many fans over the years playing with nearly every band in town—they should all get a copy of this recording without delay!—MV
Available on Big Foot Jazz, PO Box 1396, Oak Park, IL 60304-1900.