Earl McIntyre – Brass Carnival and Tribute! (2013)

Named for the two groups featured here, bass trombone and tuba player Earl McIntyre’s debut as a leader enchants with the exotic rhythms, stunning brass stabs and euphoric joy of the African diaspora. Yet Brass Carnival and Tribute!, which features turns by trumpeter Lew Soloff, French horn player Vincent Chauncey and vibesman Warren Smith among others, is more than a foot-tappingly effusive party in a jewel case. Its sizzling second lines, intriguing sambas and striking socas are leavened, along the way, with moments of brass chorale quietude, making for a thrillingly complex musical experience.

Brass Carnival, a 20-piece ensemble featuring Howard Johnson and Bob Stewart on tubas, is joined by the six-member Tribute! — where McIntyre finds the spotlight more often. Together, they connect the dots in a career that has included work with bluesman Taj Mahal, The Band on their famous Rock of Ages project (since reissued as Live at the Academy of Music), Lester Bowie’s Brass Fantasy, the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra and, going back to the Brooklyn-born McIntyre’s earliest playing days, a stint in the Salvation Army band.

Perhaps the best example of McIntyre’s easy way with synthesizing these seemingly disparate, but actually quite interrelated, sounds can be found on the appropriately named “Second Line Soca,” a Brass Carnival cut featuring this perfectly attenuated, sun-flecked solo from Soloff. And so it goes, as McIntyre can be found doing both Ellington (“Come Sunday,” dedicated by Tribute! to mentor Britt Woodman from Duke’s band), and then this rumbling funk “You’re Hot (And I Like It a Lot),” featuring McIntyre’s wife Renee Manning on vocals. He’ll lead the group through the mysterious ether of “Witch’s Samba,” then romp through the call-and-response postbop-inflected “Rivals.”

“Shapeshifter,” “Pericles and the Lion” and “JJ’s Whology” make direct references of heroes Bowie, Mel Lewis and J.J. Johnson, respectively. McIntyre’s Salvation Army roots — both his father and brother had been bandmasters — take center stage for both the opening “Here’s to the High Life,” performed with Brass Carnival, and with Tribute!’s closing gospel-inflected bass-trombone showcase “We Shall Rest with the Lord,” dedicated to McIntyre’s mother Ruby.

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has also explored music for publications like USA Today, Gannett News Service, All About Jazz and Popdose for nearly 30 years. Honored as newspaper columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section that was named Top 10 in the nation by the AP in 2006. Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.