Tony Kadleck Big Band: Sides (Alternate Side Records 2023)
Tony Kadleck’s name is synonymous with quality, consistency and versatility. The noted trumpeter has racked up hundreds of credits over the past 35 years, putting his horn to good use on Broadway, behind pop stars, during televised events, for silver screen soundtracks, and, of course, in jazz settings. Having made his most notable contributions in that last category with large ensembles—those led by Maria Schneider, John Hollenbeck, Pete McGuinness, Alan Ferber, John Fedchock, and Mike Holober, among others—it’s only fitting that he works with that format as a leader.
Sides—Kadleck’s third album, and his second big band release following 2014’s Around the Horn—brings new arrangements of old favorites to life while spotlighting top-line soloists. The tallies for those categories include the shuffling welcome of Herbie Hancock’s “Driftin’,” featuring trumpeter Greg Gisbert and tenor saxophonist Jason Rigby; Antonio Carlos Jobim’s flowing bossa nova “Desafinado,” showcasing Marvin Stamm’s flugelhorn; a structurally-enhanced look at Joe Henderson’s “Caribbean Fire Dance,” offering space to undersung tenor hero Charles Pillow and drummer Jared Schonig; and an appropriately lively look at Paquito D’Rivera’s “One For Tom,” opening things up for altoist Jon Gordon, trombonist Marshall Gilkes and pianist Henry Hey.
Not one to miss out on the fun, Kadleck steps forward on several numbers including a fragmented-turned-focused take on Bill Withers’ “Use Me,” a touching rendition of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides, Now” (replacing big band winds with strings, alto flutes and French horn) and a swinging sendoff on Beatles favorite “Can’t Buy Me Love.” In each of those appearances, every one of the nine charts he wrote for the project and all of his efforts to assemble and foreground so many colleagues, Kadleck manages to catalog his varied gifts. Taken together those strengths make Sides a model for massed artistic achievement and a portrait of a class act through and through.