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GLENN CASHMAN: Jazz saxophonist, composer, organist, educator: Press

Glenn Cashman & the Southland Big Band

Since Glenn Cashman has spent much of his career in academia (he is an associate professor of music at Colgate University), it is no surprise that his debut album with the big band he leads in Southern California sounds, from track to track, like a history of postwar jazz. It’s possible to hear Stan Kenton, Sauter-Finegan, Miles Davis with Gil Evans, Thad Jones/Mel Lewis and even some Third Stream here. (“Satellite Twelve” is based on a tone row and dedicated to Cashman’s doctoral advisor, “new music” composer Robert Gibson.) Cashman himself cites Maynard Ferguson’s Birdland Dream Band, however, and although none of the trumpeter/flugelhorn players approaches Ferguson’s stratospheric style, that’s really a telling reference, since, despite being overtly steeped in jazz history, this is a living, breathing jazz band that swings and takes some hot solos.

For example, “The Circuit” (which Cashman wrote and previously recorded with the Bill Warfield Big Band) is a slinky number paced by Ed Czach’s Hammond B3 and also boasting some funky guitar work from Ron Escheté (its inspiration is the old Chitlin’ Circuit of African-American clubs and theaters), while “Concerto per Basso Pavimento” gives lots of room to bassist Luther Hughes. In this sense, Glenn Cashman & the Southland Big Band resemble not so much the historic ensembles listed above, but rather a group in which the composer made a point of writing for his individual soloists and giving them space to play; a band such as, say, Duke Ellington’s orchestra. Is there a higher compliment than that comparison?
Even though Glenn Cashman's superlative Southland Big Band makes its home (technically) south of the Mason-Dixon Line, it is more than a few miles removed from cotton fields, mint juleps and the Mississippi River—to be more precise, in the greater Los Angeles area. There's no discernible southern partiality to the music either; it's pure-blooded straight-ahead big-band jazz, written (for the most part) and arranged by Cashman and performed by an all-star troupe of southern California's most accomplished sidemen.

As noted, eight of the nine selections on this persuasive all-original studio date are Cashman's. The lone exception is Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Aguas de Marco" (Waters of March), scored by Cashman for his fourteen-member ensemble. The sunny opener, "Cookin' with Shorty and Coop" (for Shorty Rogers and Bob Cooper), is outstanding, thanks to Cashman's well-grooved arrangement and bright solos by trumpeter Carl Saunders and tenor saxophonist Rob Hardt. There are other earnest tributes, to Howard Rumsey ("Lighthouse Keeping Man"), fellow bassist Luther Hughes ("Concerto por Basso Pavimento," on which Hughes and guitarist Ron Eschete are the soloists), composer / arranger / Cashman mentor Hank Levy ("A Samba for You") and Cashman's wife, "Cheryl," featuring the composer's expressive alto sax.

Besides those already mentioned, the band's squadron of snappy improvisers includes trumpeters Ron Stout and Bob Summers, trombonists Andy Martin and Alex Iles, tenor Tom Luer, baritone Bob Efford and pianist Ed Czach (Hammond B-3 organ on "The Circuit"). Saunders is showcased again on "Chesapeake Bay," Summers, Martin and Cashman on "Blues in the Tunnel," Stout and Hardt on "Satellite Twelve." The rhythm section (Czach, Eschete, Hodges, drummer Paul Kreibich) is on top of its game throughout, as are split lead trumpeters Lee Thornburg and Pete DeSiena.

The recording, Cashman writes, is "the realization of a longtime dream." It's a safe bet that even he never dreamed it would turn out this well. Thanks to Cashman's persistence and expertise, the "Southland" has risen again. Long may it endure and prosper.
Glenn Cashman is normally based in New York, but tours extensively. He is a fine alto sax soloist and also a very good lead alto; in addition he frequently plays tenor which he plays with the Cannonball-Coltrane Project (CCP). He is obviously the complete saxophone player.

This is an outstanding big band album; Glenn has assembled many of the West Coast’s best, to record this album of his compositions and arrangements. I found it interesting that Bob Efford, who was for many years the tenor sax soloist with the Ted Heath Band, is included in the personnel.

The arrangements are all very interesting to listen to and the standard of solo playing is consistently very high. Often the band sounds even larger than a 14-piece, due to Glenn’s skill as an arranger. The style of the tracks is very varied, which makes the album even more enjoyable, and the choice of different soloists and instruments for the solos helps maintain the listener’s interest from start to finish.

The recording quality is also very high: you would expect that in 2009, but it is not always the case. The arrangements are demanding, but this crew handle them without ever seeming to be fazed, demonstrating the calibre of the musicians involved.

I recommend this album to all fans of big band jazz without any reservations, it is first-class.
Jazz educator Glenn Cashman is, of course, also a composer/arranger as well as a saxophonist, and he spent his post-tenure sabbatical from Colgate University, where he is Associate Professor of Music, writing new tunes, arranging (Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Aguas de Marco"), and adapting some of his previous compositions ("Lighthouse Keeping Man," "The Circuit") for this, his first album with the 15-piece Southland Big Band he leads in Southern California. Cashman's academic credentials are confirmed in his music, which is littered with stylistic touchstones in the field of post-swing big-band jazz from Stan Kenton (evoked most clearly in the closing track, "A Samba for You," which is pegged as an homage to Hank Levy, who wrote for Kenton and mentored Cashman) to third stream (notably in the tone-row-based "Satellite Twelve," another credited homage, this time to "new music" composer Robert Gibson, with whom Cashman did his doctoral work at the University of Maryland). But such footnotes should not be off-putting to the potential listener. Rest assured that, whatever the antecedents of Cashman's writing, he has put together a swinging band here and given it room to play. Even his pal Luther Hughes, with whom he plays tenor in Hughes' Cannonball-Coltrane Project, gets a lively showcase in "Concerto per Basso Pavimento." So, Glenn Cashman & the Southland Big Band earn the exclamation mark that appears at the end of their name in the album title, and, their academic qualifications notwithstanding, present a lively, and sometimes even hot, set.
Composer and alto/tenor saxophonist Glenn Cashman has put out a wonderful big band CD this year, Southland Big Band. He is the composer on all compositions except “Aguas De Marco” by Antonio Carlos Jobim.

There are ten selections of meaningful tunes from Cashman about his life experiences. One, as example, is “Lighthouse Keeping Man” for his good friend Howard Rumsey, who directed many years of famous jazz concerts at the Lighthouse and later Concerts by the Sea. Another is “Cheryl” for his lovely wife, and “Cooking with Shorty and Coop” (famed trumpeter Shorty Rogers and sax man great, Bob Cooper), who were a main part of the Lighthouse All-Stars during the group’s fame in the late 50s and early 60s.

The band includes many of the best players in L.A.: Tom Luer and Rob Hardt (tenor), Bob Efford (bari), and Glenn Cashman (alto) on saxophones; Lee Thornburg, Pete De Sienna, Bob Summers, Ron Stout, and Carl Saunders on trumpets; Andy Martin and Alex Iles on trombones; Ron Eschete on guitar; Ed Czach on piano/Hammond B-3; Luther Hughes on acoustic bass; and Paul Kreibich on drums.

The music here is swinging and mellow and, of course, has lots of brilliant solos from all of the fifteen members. “Blues in the Tunnel” is a story of Cashman going to a rehearsal in New York and getting literally stuck in Lincoln Tunnel. Some bopishly-influenced solos come forward from trumpeter Summers, Cashman and then a large, soulful blues-infected solo from Hughes. A melodically infused number, “Chesapeake Bay” plays well, giving some trumpet predominance in soloing from Thornburg and Gillespie-like bursts in Saunders’ fine solo. All numbers in this CD are very interesting and make an exploratory listening adventure. The liner notes are a must-read, telling something of each composition. Check out CD Baby or www.glenncashman.com for purchasing info. Definitely recommended.

Reprinted with permission from the November 2009 issue of LA Jazz Scene.