"Did anyone get hurt?" Bill Potts asked the members of his 20-piece band at Blues Alley last night after they opened with a torrid rendition of "Oh Lord, I'm on My Way" from "Porgy and Bess."
"We'll be taking a five-minute break now," Potts then joked, but in light of the challenging and frequently exhausting big-band charts he's arranged, the idea didn't seem so outlandish. One bright, brassy juggernaut followed another, and it was hard to imagine a more vibrant sound coming from a more enthusiastic and talented ensemble.
The highlights included a pair of contrasting alto sax solos by Tad Elmer and Ron Diehl on "C Jam Blues" that eventually merge into one blistering exchange; trumpeter Bob Pomerleau's mournful lead on the New Orleans number "Dead Man Blues" and his fiery second chorus; Potts' whimsical arrangement of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" that segued suddenly from march time to swing time; drummer Chuck Redd and bassist Paul Langosch's searing tempo on "Mahogany Hall Stomp"; and guitarist Paul Wingo's lovely, economical lines on a tune simply titled "SSSSSH."
In short, big bands and big-band music doesn't get much better than this.