Lester Bowie's Brass Fantasy - I Only Have Eyes For You (LP-1985)

Genre: Jazz / Contemporary Jazz | Total Time: 53:41 | Size: 433.44 MB | FLAC
Side A
A1 - I Only Have Eyes For You .... 10:30
By – Al Dubin, Harry Warren
A2 - Think .... 1:31
By – Bruce Purse
A3 - Lament (Dedicated To Dr. Ray Copeland) .... 13:50
By – Malachi Thompson
soloist, trumpet – Stanton Davis

Side B
B1 - Coming Back, Jamaica .... 5:17
By – Lester Bowie
B2 - Nonet .... 14:30
By – Bob Stewart
B3 - When The Spirit Returns .... 7:50
By – Lester Bowie

Lester Bowie – trumpet
Malachi Thompson – trumpet
Bruce Purse – trumpet
Stanton Davis – trumpet, flugelhorn
Craig Harris – trombone
Steve Turre – trombone
Vincent Chancey – French horn
Bob Stewart – tuba
Phillip Wilson – drums, percussion

Label: ECM Records – ECM 1296 /  ECM Records ?– 825 902-1
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album / Country: Germany / Released: 1985
Style: Contemporary Jazz
Recorded February 1985 at Rawlston Recording Studios, Brooklyn, NY.
Design – Dieter Rehm
Photography By [Cover Photo] – Karl Johnson
Photography by [Insert Photo] – Helmut Frühauf
Photography By [Liner Photo] – Lynne Wilson
Photography By [Liner Photos] – Deborah Bowie
Engineer – Akili Walker
Digitally mixed at Tonstudio Bauer, Ludwigsburg
Engineer [Mixing] – Martin Wieland
Producer – Lester Bowie, Manfred Eicher
Matrix / Runout (Side A): 825 902-1 S1 ECM 1296 320
Matrix / Runout (Side B): 825 902-1 S2=2 ECM 1296 320

Lester Bowie’s Brass Fantasy’s debut album is a deliberate provocation. The band, a nonet consisting of four trumpets, two trombones, a French horn, tuba and drums, displays Bowie’s love for pop music while clearly being in the jazz tradition, the album is released on ECM Records, a label that is famous for its clean and perfect sound. The band is extremely cool and tight (especially Bob Stewart on tuba, Steve Turre on trombone and Philip Wilson on drums), the sound is full of emotional depth and the selection of the tracks – from The Flamingo’s doo wop classic “I Only Have Eyes For You” to Bob Stewart’s majestic and uplifting “Nonet” – take the concept of Ancient to the Future to the next level because in spite of the pop approach the music breathes the spirit of gospel and blues. Lester Bowie’s “Coming Back, Jamaica”, is one of the best reggae tracks ever, which is dominated by the mother of all tuba solos. One of my all-time-favorite albums!

 “I Only Have Eyes For You” it was Lester’s first record with his new group, Brass Fantasy, and for my money, this lineup is my favorite. And of all the subsequent Brass Fantasy albums, this first one is my favorite. The basic (and I know it’s not cool to reduce a great concept down to something so basic) premise for the group seems to have been: take some pop tunes and make arrangements for a brass band of improvisers with the lead role going to the great singer of songs, Lester Bowie. So if that’s the schtick with this band, then maybe why I like this first album so much is the fact that this first album only features one pop tune cover; the other five tracks are originals, two of which are Lester compositions. The cover feature here is obviously the title track which dates back to the early 30’s, but the version everyone today knows is the most popular: the 1959 version of “I Only Have Eyes For You” by the Flamingos. The Flamingos were a classic doowop group and they had their share of hits, but their version of this tune is one of the classic recordings of all time. It’s just magical. Here, listen. Awesome, right? Now, check out the Brass Fantasy version. It’s longer than the Flamingos version but it stays pretty faithful to that 1959 arrangement, even down to those amazing “doo bop shoo bops.” I can hear Lester playing the words and I love how he sings that diminished feel coming out of the bridge each time the bands repeats. So many great sounds of Lester’s ridiculously huge arsenal of amazing trumpet sounds come out in this recording. He’s really a vocalist stuck with a trumpet. And dig Vincent Chancey’s French horn. Perfect.

What a great start to an amazing record. Another gem on this record is “Think” by trumpeter Bruce Purce (never heard of him before or after this record! Have you??). Malachi Thompson’s “Lament” is also pretty special. Lester’s two compositions on this record “Coming Home Jamaica” and “When the Spirit Returns” are also pretty sweet (some classic Lester on these) and indicative of the kinds of tunes he wrote and often played with later versions of the Art Ensemble of Chicago. And then there’s the great tuba monster Bob Stewart who is always the rock of Brass Fantasy albums. His tune “Nonet” is probably the most “avant” on this album. It’s amazing. Wonderful arrangement and spectacular group playing and improvisation. All in all, it’s a really special album from a performance standpoint and fro a compositional standpoint. Although some of the future Brass Fantasy records resort to kinda dialed-in, almost cheesy arrangements of pop tunes, the band never compromises here. There is some adventuresome and powerful playing and writing on this first album.

Have I sold you on this record yet? :)... If you like brass instruments, if you like trumpet, if you like Lester Bowie, if you like The Flamingos, if you like jazz, if you like good music, then you really should consider adding this album to your collection.

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