Review at All About Jazz
The Len Pierro Jazz Orchestra: The Third Quarter
by Edward Blanco
February 7, 2021
Flourtown, PA native Len Pierro unveils one monster big band album that will be reverberating well beyond the boundaries of Pennsylvania and from radio studios throughout the jazz landscape for quite a long time. The Third Quarter is The Len Pierro Jazz Orchestra's recent offering and what an offering of fresh original compositions and re-imagined jazz standards it is.
The 63-year-old saxophonist has produced one heck of an album of traditional straight-ahead swinging jazz that defines what explosive big band music is like. Featuring an army of twenty-five local musicians including legendary sax man Larry McKenna, alto saxophonist Matt Vashlishan, tenor saxophonist Ron Kerber and many others, this ensemble is designed to play with swagger and power and does so gracefully.
The band comes out swinging on the Phil Woods-inspired "Fill in the Gap," showcasing the terrific sax section providing but a taste of what's to come. The Ralph Rainger standard "If I Should Lose You" is the perfect piece for McKenna and Chris Farr to display their tenor voices. The beautiful "As We Know It" and "Cottage 2" are two original compositions that light up the day. Other originals the shine all over are the brassy "In Earnest," the slow ballad "Time to Go," and the show piece and title track of the session, "The Third Quarter," where the power and full force of the ensemble is on display featuring Vashlishan, trumpeter Tony DeSantis, trombonist Rob Stoneback and Farr on sparkling solos.
One of the more outstanding performances here is by Vashlishan with a superb solo on the gentle and gorgeous original "No More, No Less." The standards come back on Fats Waller's "Jitterbug Waltz" and on the Kenny Barron finale "Voyage" where McKenna and pianist Tom Lawton combine to bring the curtains down with playful swinging performances that the entire band is guilty of.
Anyone who suggests that big band music is dead, should take one listen to The Third Quarter before reaching such a ridiculous conclusion. For those who appreciate the ensemble sound, there's plenty here to keep your ears popping. Enjoy!