The Bill Potts Big Band has not been in performance for some months, yet it blew up a storm in Blues Alley Monday night--and that speaks volumes about both the professionalism of its 20 players and the excellence of their charts (all by the hand of conductor-leader Potts). Whether in massed ensemble sound, glove-tight section work or improvised solo action it has to be conceded that this "pickup" orchestra of mostly military band members is a crack unit that could rout many a full-time big jazz band. Happily, they will gather again in the Alley April 4.
High points of the evening included a mellow blue fluegelhorn statement by Vaughn Nark on "My Man's Gone Now," the brash, smeary and slippery trombone exchange by Ken Hedberg and Rick Lillard on "555 Feet High" and the remodeling of the customarily slow-drag "Tin Roof Blues" into a hot-rod vehicle for saxophonic chase by tenorists Dave Shiff and Jim Hayward. "Happy Blues" skipped down the line of six trumpeters proving each to be a high note and low growl expressionist of the first order. and "Shhhhhh" featured the soulful, horn-like artistry of guitarist Paul Wingo.