By Ed Enright | Published April 2021
For more than 10 years, trumpeter, music retailer and retired Air National Guardsman Pete Ellman has drawn from a pool of Chicago’s finest players to populate his namesake big band. The ensemble’s reputation as a local force to be reckoned with precedes its debut recording, For Pete’s Ache, by a long shot. Pre-pandemic, the group sustained its profile by playing weekly gigs and serving as host to events in support of the educational community. Now, with the release of For Pete’s Ache, everything that’s already established about this group has been officially documented on a program of fresh-sounding arrangements written mainly by band members. Trumpeter Daniel Moore, who composed five of the pieces here and charted an additional two, is credited with the thrilling opener, “High Speed Pursuit,” a perfect “album one/track one” choice for announcing one’s official recording debut. Solos catch fire right after a strong initial statement from the full ensemble, with tenor saxophonist Ian Nevins, alto saxophonist Steve Schnall, trombonist Andy Baker and trumpeter David Katz all contributing fiery choruses. It’s he first of many compelling solos by Katz, who wields some of the best jazz trumpet chops in the region. Benny Carter’s classic “When Lights Are Low,” arranged and performed here by the outstanding baritone saxophonist Ted Hogarth, adjusts the dimmer setting to “just right” and showcases the band’s ability to swing lightly; his tone on the big horn is divine. Lead trumpeter Roger Ingram is the light that everyone else in the ensemble “goes to”; with him onboard, everything’s phrased beautifully. Repertoire-wise, there’s something for everyone: barn-burners, medium-up swingers, ballad features, danceable Latin-jazz tracks and a hip-hop-infused mashup of Dizzy Gillespie’s “Manteca” with the Ellington/Strayhorn standard “Take The ‘A’ Train.” Ellman’s ensemble successfully straddles the divide between tech-band concert jazz and dance-friendly big band entertainment. For Pete’s Ache promises to spread the good word well beyond their suburban Chicago roots.