Reviews for "No Passport Required"
Featuring The Ian McDougall Big Band
From the ITA Journal Volume 37 #1, January 2009
Ian McDougall has been a fixture of Canadian jazz for decades and his compositions have been recorded by many ensembles including the Rob McConnell bands. This, however, is McDougall's first album of original compositions for big band under his own name.
The title composition "No Passport Required", is described as a "duo concerto in three movements for trumpet, trombone, and jazz band." The movements: "Heading Out", "Heading Back", and "O.S. Blues" ("Overseas Blues"), describe McDougall's experiences as a young jazz musician traveling from Alberta to London and throughout the UK with the Johnny Dankworth band in 1960-61. Most of the other tracks are written as tributes or memorials such as "Breen", written for Dankworth band colleague Bobby Breen, "Sea Jay" for Concord Jazz founder Carl Jefferson (C.J.), and "Greetings from McSlide to McValve" – from McDougall to Rob McConnell. "Ian Leaps Out" is a rhythm changes tune with a glance to "Lester Leaps In" and is an expansion of versions previously written for six and ten-piece groups.
McDougall's arrangements are top-notch. The concerto "No Passport Required" is well-conceived and allows plenty of space for both soloists (McDougall and Brad Turner) with interesting and well-orchestrated ensemble parts behind. McDougall's playing varies between the velvety smoothness of "Heading Back" and "Greetings from McSlide to McValve" to the thoughtful, melodic approach of "No Passport Required". McDougall's solos always seem to be intelligent and well-conceived, even when he effortlessly traverses the chord changes at rapid tempos. Other solos of note are Campbell Ryga's solo on "Ian Leaps Out" and Turner's solo on "Heading Out".
The combination of excellent ensemble musicians, solid compositions, great arrangements, and dazzling soloists is a potent mixture. For big band connoisseurs and fans of McDougall, this album is a must-own and no passport is required to access this Canadian gem.
University of Southern Mississippi
From The Irish Times
Trombonist, composer and orchestrator Ian McDougall provided this line-up from Canada's west coast with richly detailed big band charts, all swung with elan and skill. The core of the album is its eponymous three-part suite, where McDougall imaginatively juggles the basic thematic material and shares the solo space with the marvellous trumpet and flugelhorn player, Brad Turner. Elsewhere, the band's solo strength is also high-calibre; long-time Irish expat, guitarist Oliver Gannon, is featured on Lightly Turning, and on Ian Leaps Out (an I Got Rhythm variation) jump-style altoist Campbell Ryga and the bustling tenor of Ross Taggart, among others, impress. Given the probably relatively limited rehearsal time, there's a successful trade-off between mere clinical precision and getting the feeling right. Big band aficionados should love it.
From "All About Jazz" By Jack Bowers
Ian McDougall's name may be unfamiliar to you, but the accomplished composer/arranger/trombonist certainly needs no introduction to jazz fans in Canada, where his long and impressive resume includes half a dozen albums under his own name, more than double that number as lead trombonist/soloist with Rob McConnell's peerless Boss Brass, and another three as leader of the 'bone-centered Brass Connection. Even so, No Passport Required is an overdue benchmark, marking the first time that McDougall has led a big band in a program comprised entirely of his own compositions and arrangements.
Passport is a three-part suite inspired by McDougall's brief stopover in the U.K. (1960-61) as a member of the John Dankworth band. In those days, he recalls, as a member of the British Commonwealth, all that was required to enter and work in the U.K. was proof of citizenship, "which in my case was an Alberta birth certificate. No passport required!" The twenty-eight-minute suite, on which McDougall and trumpeter Brad Turner are the stellar soloists, is thoroughly delightful, enlivened from start to finish by McDougall's warm memories of his first overseas adventure. "Heading Out" describes musically the happiness and enthusiasm of a band on the road, ready and eager to perform for receptive audiences, "Heading Back" the weariness felt when returning home in the early hours of the morning, and "O.S. (Overseas) Blues" McDougall's blue mood in late 1961 when he became homesick and was ready to return to the west coast of Canada. The suite is melodically charming and rhythmically strong, with bassist Neil Swainson and drummer Craig Scott consistently impressive in their supporting roles.
Admirable as the suite is, it's gratifying to report that there's no letdown afterward, starting with "Lightly Turning," a gossamer theme based on Tennyson's phrase, "In the spring a young man's fancy lightly turns . . ." Pianist Ron Johnston and guitarist Oliver Gannon are the soloists on "Turning," alto Campbell Ryga, trumpeter Derry Byrne, tenor Ross Taggart and trombonist Rod Murray on "Ian Leaps Out," a snappy salute to Lester Young based on the Gershwins' "I Got Rhythm." "Breen" is a tasteful ballad for ensemble written in remembrance of McDougall's friend from Dankworth days, singer Bobby Breen, "Do You Mean It?" a twelve-bar blues first recorded by the Boss Brass in 1996 on the album Even Canadians Get the Blues, with solos here by Johnston, alto Jack Stafford and trumpeter Don Clark.
Turner's lithe flugel is showcased again on "See Jay," an easygoing jazz waltz dedicated to the late Carl Jefferson, founder of Concord Jazz Records, while McDougall and tenor Phil Dwyer share solo honors on the heartwarming finale, "Greetings—from McSlide (a.k.a. McDougall) to McValve" (his close friend and former employer, valve trombonist Rob McConnell). No Passport is a superb album by any measure, and McDougall, who easily makes his point without blowing a fuse, should consider doing this more often.
Review for "In a Sentimental Mood"
From the ITA Journal, July 2006
"There is a reason that Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington are still being recorded by today's best jazz artists. The melodies are some of the best ever composed, and the McDougall quintet has great things to 'say' about them. Famous for his thirty-year stint with Rob McConnell's' boss Brass, this latest CD is Ian McDougall's seventh enterprise in the last ten years. McDougall recorded this double volume of music rather spontaneously in Victoria at a time when bassist Neil Swainson was visiting. IN A SENTIMENTAL MOOD is comprised of tunes by Ellington and Strayhorn and will not disappoint you. These tunes provide as refreshing a listen as ever.
McDougall leads the pack with his creative lines and smooth melody, putting his own flare on such classics as IN A SENTIMENTAL MOOD and the creative intro of IT DON'T MEAN A THING. There are many fun moments such as the Latin riff and glissando opening of TAKE THE "A" TRAIN (it works!) and McDougall's spur of the moment choice to sing on DON'T GET AROUND MUCH. Some the tempos are unexpected but succeed. The medley of BLACK AND TAN FANTASY and THINGS AIN'T WHAT THEY USED TO BE features nice plunger work recalling the voice of "Tricky" Sam Nanton. His playing is first-rate throughout and is only enhanced by the great feel and sensitive interplay of the rhythm section – which is really extraordinary. Swainson was definitely worth the wait; his bass sound is great and his playing is incredible.
Everything about this CD is skillfully done. It is well-recorded and is produced by McDougall and his wife, Barb. The double volume of eighty minutes of music is handsomely displayed with nice graphics. Unsurprisingly, it has recently been nominated for one of Canada's Juno awards in the "Traditional Jazz Album of the Year" category.
Trombonists should certainly own this CD, but it will be of interest to others as well. With its fresh twists and beloved standards, this is a stealth album that non-trombonists will enjoy as much as trombonists."
...Deb Scott, Stephen F. Austin State University
Review for "Nights in Vancouver"
From the ITA Journal, October 2004
"Ian McDougall is well known to trombonists, not only for his work with Rob McConnell, but also for the Brass Connection recordings. "Nights in Vancouver" is his fifth recording as a leader. It doesn't take much listening to know that one is hearing seasoned jazz musicians, musicians who have been making their livelihoods as performing artists for many moons.
"Nights in Vancouver" is a thoroughly enjoyable recording, mixing jazz and show standards along with originals by McDougall, Taggart and fellow Canadian Don Thompson. McDougall's writing ability is visible not only in his two original blues tunes but also in the exquisitely crafted arrangements. Young players would do well to study these arrangements to learn the effective use of all available musical tools (Oliver Gannons's melodic guitar lines are exceedingly effective). Powerful sounding unisons, harmonized melodies and intricate solis are all used beautifully. Especially interesting is the unexpected internal key change in "Polka Dots"; as in many great arrangements, it makes the tune even better. Every member of this dynamic sextet not only adeptly fills their role within the ensemble but adds well-crafted and truly interesting solos.
"Nights in Vancouver" is a stellar recording, featuring a great trombonist leading a combo of sage and exceedingly talented sidemen in a set of wonderful and finely arranged tunes, and with superb fidelity and balance throughout. Highly recommended."
...Tom Walker, Oklahoma State University
Reviews for "Burnin' the House Down"
From ITA Journal (Quarterly magazine of the International Trombone Association), April 2002
"In times as perplexing as ours, when the barely tolerable is routinely confused for greatness, should there not be a comprehensive assessment of the contributions of one Ian McDougall? For some unexplained reason, this Herculean trombonist/composer/educator is too often afforded the short end of qualitative evaluation. After all, could Rob McDonnell's Boss Brass have been half the band it was had McDougall not held down its trombone section, while contributing many of its more substantive compositions?
As strange as it is to say, Burnin' the House Down is McDougall's very first live recording as a leader in a small group club setting, and it can be said without reservation that he takes full advantage of the opportunity. The band he assembled at Hermann's Jazz Club in Victoria, British Columbia, experiences chemistry heard only from musicians who regularly perform together. If anyone seriously doubts this assessment, just listen to how nonchalantly guitarist Oliver Gannon emphasizes McDougall's accents during improvised forays on "O.S.Blues" and "Strivin' for a Riff," or how easily bassist Lachance locks into drummer Fuller's hi-hat, leaving the space necessary for pianist Johnston and saxophonist Taggart to perform at their creative best. This is a totemic degree of nuance that only occurs after years of collective performance. Moreover, these undeniable strengths will easily make you forget the occasional missed note, or even the first night's minor recording deficiencies. The bottom line is that when all is concisely evaluated, Burnin'... still comes off as a first rate effort worthy of any jazz aficionado's collection."
...Tom Smith, Pfeiffer University
From The Trombonist (Magazine of the British Trombone Society), Autumn 2001
"Most trombonists on these shores will probably associate the name Ian McDougall with holding the lead trombone chair with Rob McConnell's Boss Brass for several years. Maybe slightly lesser known is that as wel as being a great lead player with sound, time and swing to die for, Ian is also an inventive, melodic jazz soloist.
Anyone who's heard his great small group playing on his last CD, the Warmth of the Horn, will already have enjoyed his great taste and beautiful sound. This CD features Ian with his sextet, recorded live in Hermann's Jazz Club, Victoria, Canada last May (2000) in what was probably the last ever gig at the venue. It was destroyed in a fire two days after the CD was recorded, hence Burnin' the House Down.
His sextet features Ross Taggart, a very swinging big-sound tenor player who provides the perfect foil to Ian's trombone, and contributes really great solos, especially on the little known ballad by Henry Mancini, Royal Blue. The CD is worth buying for this solo alone, and that's even before you consider that it features one of the world's great jazz trombonists. His rhythm section (Ron Johnston, Andre Lachance, Jerry Fuller and Ollie Gannon) swing with great energy all the way, and play sensitively and musically behind the horns. Reperoire-wise, a great choice of tunes from Monk's I Mean You to Undecided and original rhythm changes and blues heads. All the charts are well-arranged, and because of the live element, the solos are full of energy and excitement, and are bound to make you smile just because the band is having so much fun. Ian plays with passion and drive and gets a chance to stretch out more than we're used to hearing on the Boss Brass records. Definitely not to be missed."
From the Toronto Star, September 1 2001
"A live session by leading mainstream west coasters features a blustery front line of former Toronto stalwart Ian McDougall on trombone and tenor saxist Ross Taggart, with delicate punctuation from guitarist Oliver Gannon and hearty rhythm from pianist Ron Johnston, bassist Andre Lachance and Toronto-based drummer Jerry Fuller. It was recorded last year at Hermann's Jazz Club in Victoria, which burned to the ground two days later (hence the title).
The outing certainly crackles. The leader has lost nothing of his trademark swing and grace, while fellow soloists are relaxed but always ready to pump hard, as on the opening Strivin' for a Riff. The group digs hard into Monk's I Mean You. The sextet's ballad work is exemplary on Royal Blue and especially on When Joanna Loved Me. This feel-good date, a satisfying blend of brawn and refinement, ends with the raucous O.S. Blues, drawn from a suite McDougall wrote for trumpeter Kenny Wheeler."
Reviews for "Dry with a Twist"
From the Toronto Star, June 5 1999
"Onetime Boss Brass stalwart Ian McDougall now plies his trombone trade out of Victoria, B.C., and recruits top westerners for a perky outing marrying tradition to an open-minded approach. Among his recruits are pianist Ron Johnston, guitarist Oliver Gannon and tenor Ross Taggart, plus Toronto's Jerry Fuller on drums.
Opener Ian Leaps Out swings like mad, with the boss showing off an enviable tone and dexterity to spare. He then generates fuzzy inner feelings on I'll Be Around.
His charts for I'm Getting Sentimental Over You and Broadway are crafty, and still allow colleagues solo space, exploited best by Johnston. The band has fun, especially on Filomena, part of 73 minutes of tasteful, tangy, mainstream jazz."
From Jazz Scene (Portland, Oregon), May 1999
"Some of the creme de Canada is assembled here for a jam session with both a silvery ensemble sound AND plenty of blowin' room as well. McDougall is in complete command on trombone and his sextet swings with seasoned skill on So Nice, I'm Getting Sentimental Over You, Night and Day, and Broadway. Ian Leaps Out bears a resemblance to, you guessed it, Lester Leaps In, and Filomena is a cooker whose changes I could not connect to a standard. Blue Cabaret , a moody movie-like theme, and a beautiful I'll Be Around were the ballad standouts. McDougall's colleagues account well for themselves, especially Ross Taggart, a tenor sax man with a deep bow to the proud lineage of straight-ahead tenors from which he descends. This is the kind of swinging, middle-of-the-aisle, rich music that's all too rare these days."
From Victory Review (Tacoma, Washington), July 1999
"I was prepared to be blasé about yet another release by a horn-based jazz ensemble, but Ian McDougall dissolved my cynicism. Starting with McDougall's deft, agile trombone lines on Ian Leaps Out (presumably, he's passing Lester Young, who's on his way in), McDougall and his bandmates deliver a modern jazz style featuring great humor and sophisticated wit. McDougall's clever settings provide lots of forward movement without being overarranged, and lots of space for his outstanding soloists. A case in point is the venerable Cole Porter tune Night and Day, which is nicely re-conceived around the sax of Ross Taggart, the guitar of Oliver Gannon, the piano of Ron Johnston, and the sympathetic ensemble playing by all. The originals are clever and, well, original, and leave you wanting more: check out Gannon's brassy and bold So Nice , Johnston's unabashedly sentimental Gift of Love , and McDougall's colorful improvisation platform, Zimbabwe . For Generation Y, which is now discovering Swing and faux Lounge Music, here's real jazz in all its challenging and satisfying glory."
...by Tod De Groff
Excerpts of Reviews from Various Recordings and Performances
"...a crystalline example of the Carl Jefferson legacy.This chamber quartet brings piano, guitar, and bass into interplay between the fine viscous quality in which the album found its title. The intimate sense of the ensemble brings the deft counterpoint of these players to the fore."
...Bill Bennett, JazzTimes, November 1996
"The only trombone solo star on view (at the Cork Jazz Festival) was the impeccable Ian McDougall...the quartet took us through their own arrangements with consummate professionalism. Ian's playing was of the highest order, especially his seamless legato."
...John C. Gourlay, The Trombonist (Magazine of the British Trombone Society), Spring 1997
"...excellent warm fluid trombone...McDougall's elegant lyric improvisations are enhanced by Oliver Gannon's mellow toned guitar, the crisp clean piano of Ron Johnston, and the impressive bass...four of Canada's finest..."
...Doug Campbell, News Post Leader UK, August 31 1995
"The quartet's emphasis on tone, texture, and improvisation comes across as strikingly modern. The bonhomie of the group and the tonal richness of the acoustic instruments made for a group that was as pleasurable for its sheer texture as for its skills with melody, harmony and ryhthm."
...David Lee, Coast Independent, March 17, 1997
"...(Ian) likes the instrument's creamy sound, its regal authority and its romantic associations...thoughtful and unhurried...the playing is exemplary all around..."
...Mark Miller, The Globe and Mail, August 5 1995
"The group's sound, tight but relaxed, does remarkably well sans a drum kit...contrapuntal, four-part interplay, reminiscent of '50's West Coast cool jazz..."
...Eliot Tiegal, JAZZIZ Magazine, October 1995
"That's a good CD title; the word for everything, not just the first track, is 'warm'. The four provide expert musicianship...the fairly unusual instrumentation adds to the listening pleasure. McDougall plays a cracking solo on Mc not Mac and good stuff on every other track including a remarkable, jagged solo on Blue Skies, a complex but bluesy one on Centerpiece (good blues man, McDougall) and tough trombone on Frank Rosolino's Blue Daniel. His playing of the How Long theme is beautifully toned and virtual singing."
...Ron Salmon, Jazz Journal International, January 1996
"...smooth, warm, and deft."
...The Toronto Star, July 22 1995
"...a thorough delight...a superb collection of tunes crafted by a masterful team...you can hear warmth and love for the music and each other on every note..."
...Joseph Blake, Times Colonist, August 31 1995
"...bel canto beauty and simplicity..."
...Jeff Bradly, The Denver Post, June 14 1996
"More than warm."
...Midwest Record Recap, November 1995
"...mostly (McDougall) plays in a subtly eloquent style that should please both lyricists and singers who care about lyrics. "
...Owen Cordle, The News and Observer, July 16 1995
"Ian McDougall is surely one of the true masters of his horn and its role in the jazz idiom. His definitive solos never wear out their welcome, always leaving the listener wishing for more."
...David Robbins, Malaspina University Newspaper, March 8 1997