Swingworks, a 17-piece band of appropriate appellation, kicked off auspiciously at Blues Alley last night with the Don Menza composition "Groovin' Hard." An up-tempo piece with a brassy intro, it featured emotionally charged tenor sax solos by David Yarborough and Arthur Dawkins, and a gruff trombone passage by Calvin Jones that booted things along nicely.
"All of Me" showcased pianist Kirk Stuart, whose trumpetlike lines evolved into clusters of chords and arpeggiated runs. When the horns and reeds came in, he exchanged phrases with them in a call and response pattern.
The assemblage acquitted itself well on ballads, too, notably the Calvin Jones arrangement of Thad Jones' "A Child Is Born," and the Gershwin title "A Foggy Day." The latter piece featured a flugelhorn solo by George Horan that deftly and effectively employed understatement and reserve.
Swingworks, a Washington-based orchestra, is under the co-leadership of drummer Mickey Toperzer and Fred Irby. Its membership includes several educators. Dr. Arthur Dawkins is director of jazz studies at Howard while Calvin Jones holds the same post at UDC, Irby directs the Jazz Ensemble at Howard and Kirk Stuart is a professor of music there.
Swingworks will return to Blues Alley on Monday, Nov. 5.