Johnny Nocturne Band
Wild & Cool
Bullseye Blues & Jazz 9586
For its third Bullseye outing, the Nocturne band presents a more subdued and complex sound than on its two previous releases, Wailin' Daddy and Shake 'Em Up. This time out, the sophisticated arrangements of leader John Firmin, trombonist Marty Wehner and Melanie Bryson often take center stage from the blowing and jiving of the earlier works; Wild & Cool is more '40s jazz than '50s R&B.

The opening cut, Bobby Troup's "Lemon Twist," shows us what's in store. With the horns playing the theme in unison, we're transported to an elegant supper club, dressed to kill and sipping martinis. On Ellington's "Don't Get Around Much Anymore," Firmin plays a gorgeous clarinet solo, warm and limpid.

Fortunately, the band does reveal its wilder side. "New Kind of Mambo" is a mambo/rock tune on which Firmin reveals plenty of grit and sass on his main ax, the tenor sax. "Tu ma qui te (Hey! Joli Blon)" is four-to-the-floor boogie with a terrific baritone solo by Rod Sudduth.

In addition to the arrangements, the other standout is vocalist Brenda Boykin (since departed from the group), who uses her rich, soulful alto to great effect. On the swing tune, "At My Front Door," she plays with the rhythm, lagging behind the beat or doubling it without sacrificing command or technique. On "After the Lights Go Down Low," her voice does too, adding an extra element to the song's romance. She will be missed.

If you like hard-driving jump blues, check out the first two Nocturne releases. If you like your little big-bands on the cool side, this one's for you.

-- David Feld

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Boulder, CO, USA.