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Cooler Than Cool - Hotter Than Hell Review

Around the time Jeff Duff was auditioning for a young band looking to emulate the jazz rock formula of American band Blood Sweat & Tears, back in 1971, trombonist and Big Band leader, Ed Wilson, was already making an international reputation for himself with his then offsider Warren Daly. Thirty years on, Duff and Wilson have teamed up and there it is, Track 3 on Cooler Than Cool..., one dynamite version of the first big hit from Blood Sweat & Tears, Spinning Wheel, seguing neatly into one of their later ones, You Made Me So Very Happy. The arrangements are sensational, and Duff is in fine form, his warm brown baritone as powerful as ever. If Duff had been anyone else, he could have carved himself a very credible and successful niche doing everything from Sinatra to Harry Connick. Wilson obviously recognised just that quality when he called Duff in to join the band. But Duff is of course unequivocally and endearingly quixotic, and in that very quality lies the reason why this collaboration really is something of a perfect match. You only have to look at the choices Wilson has made in terms of songs he felt he wanted to make his own through his extraordinary extemporising approach to arrangements to know he's just as much a larrikin eccentric as Duff is unclassifiable. Who else would come up with a Big Band arrangement for Love Is In The Air so exhilarating and potentially lethal for the musicians concerned (drummers beware!) that you'll never hear it in the same way again?

Not every choice works entirely, though not through any shortcomings in the players... I mean how can you go wrong with the likes of drummer Gordon Rytmeister and bass players Dave Ellis and Phil Scorgie just for starters? Really though, the occasional miss is barely noticeable among the gems. Georgia On My Mind, for instance, is just sublime. Just settle back and let it all blow you away and chill you out by turns.

By Michael Smith - Drum Media 22 October 2002