MART AVANT'S NIGHT FLIGHT BIG BAND  “Superblue” CD is available at

This powerhouse ensemble has appeared at Ona's Music Room in Birmingham, Alabama ( on most every 1st and 3rd wednesday night for the past 6 years. In this period of time, the Night Flight Big Band has played host to numerous guest artists, including saxophonist Lou Marini Jr, vibraphonist Chuck Redd, and trombonist Wycliffe Gordon.

Mart Avant, the founder and director of the Night Flight Big Band, is also a founding member and primary contractor for The Tuscaloosa Horns (, one of the nation's finest horn sections. Follow the link to the right for more about this group.

The Night Flight Big Band recently completed the tracking for a new CD release, produced by Ray Reach, featuring guitarist Eric Essix as guest soloist, with a brief appearance by Lou Marini, Jr. The CD was recorded at CBS Recording in Centerpoint, Alabama. (See links to the right of this column for further information about this project.)


Anyone trying to categorize or “pigeon hole” this CD will have a rough time, mainly because the featured artist‘s style is so hard to categorize. When I listen to Eric play, I hear a wealth of stylistic diversity, reflecting influences ranging from B.B. King, Eric Clapton, Duane Allman and T-Bone Walker to Charlie Christian, Kenny Burrell, George Benson and (Eric’s personal idol) Wes Montgomery. So, this album is such a “mixed bag,” I am told, that “… It’ll be hard to market.” (typical words from most major label A & R persons). But how do you tell an artist so eclectic as Eric Essix “You can’t do that”?

In fact, telling Eric not to play in such a broad ranging eclectic style would go against my very philosophy as a producer. I say, “Let the artist choose their direction and stay out of his (or her) way.” Further, it is my belief that an experienced artist usually knows far better than most producers where their musical heart lies.

So that’s what I tried to do - stay out of the way. Quite often, when we finished recording a take, Eric would ask, “Was that O K?” (in his typical self effacing fashion). To which I’d reply, “Is that O K with YOU?” Eric would answer in a mild-mannered tone, “I guess so.” And so each recorded take went down.

We knocked out the recordings in short time, with very few alternate takes (a tribute to the band’s musicianship). “What tempo? 1... 2... 3... 4... We’re done.” Amazing readers, amazing players. I’m in awe. And it’s no wonder. Mart’s famed horn section, The Tuscaloosa Horns, backs up popular acts such as The Temptations, The Four Tops, Mary Wilson (of the Supremes), Smokey Robinson, and many others. They are in demand all over the country.

When it came time to mix, the tracking had gone so quickly that I had forgotten just how good the playing was. “Incredible! These cats can’t be from Alabama.” But they are. They play with enviable skill and enthusiasm. Great ensemble work… Great soloists. And let us not forget to mention the stellar soprano sax solo of Lou Marini, Jr. on Dave Grusin’s great tune, “Modaji.” One of the most in-demand and highly respected musicians on the New York scene, Lou has been a member of numerous notable musical groups, including the University of North Texas One O’clock Band, Blood Sweat and Tears, The Buddy Rich Big Band, Doc Severinsen’s band, The Saturday Night Live Band, The Blues Brothers Band (as “Blue Lou”), James Taylor’s band, Steely Dan, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, Stevie Wonder’s band, Steve Tyrell’s band, and the list goes on and on.

Most of my arrangements for this album were written for Eric’s appearances as guest artist with the UAB Jazz Ensemble, which I directed from 1998 to 2005. One other, “Sundown,” was transcribed and adapted especially for this project. Mart Avant and I collaborated on the orchestration of “Rainy Night In Georgia,” while Mart originally wrote his arrangement of “Come Rain Or Come Shine” for a M iss Alabama contestant some years ago. Annie McClendon does a great job on the vocals on this one.

Funny how this CD came about. I don’t exactly remember how I first had the idea to do a big band project with Eric. I just remember thinking it was a good idea. Of course, all the “nay sayers” told me I was crazy to do a big band recording considering today’s music industry, with it’s low (or no) budget financial climate. My wife tells me I’m a megalomaniac, that I find it impossible to think small. Well, maybe so. But I have a plan for touring this material… and I think it will work:

We will tour major cities, using local college jazz bands as our orchestra. It’s a potentially win-win proposition. There are fine college jazz bands all over the United States, most which would be glad to have the opportunity to work with successful, seasoned professional musicians. So we’ll give them that opportunity. Such concerts could expand the listening audience of the college jazz band, and in addition, Eric’s listening audience might be expanded. We will share the financial proceeds between Eric’s production team and the local college jazz program. We (Eric’s guys) get a great orchestra, and they (the local college jazz guys) raise money and (hopefully) have an edifying musical experience. And everybody’s happy. How cool.

If you enjoy listening to this CD one-tenth as much as I enjoyed producing it, you will be overjoyed.

~ Ray Reach, Director of Student Jazz Programs, Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame,


Founder and Director: Mart Avant

Alto Saxes: Sam Williams, Gary Wheat, Kim Bain.

Tenor Saxes: Rich Daviston, Steve Black, Dave Amaral.

Baritone Sax: Steve Collins.

Trombones: Bob Black, Chad Fisher, Jim Moeller, Will Shaw, Demondrae Thurman

Trumpet / Flugelhorn: Chip Crotts, Mart Avant, John Taylor, Bo Berry, Tim Brannan.

Piano / Electric Piano: Coleman Woodson, Jr. and Ray Reach

B-3 Organ: Ray Reach

Bass: Thomas Furlough, Chris Wendle.

Drums: Steve Ramos

Percussion: John Nuckols

Vocalist: Annie McClendon

“Superblue” CD is available at

Source: Mart Avant's Night Flight Big Band at All About Jazz

More info: Night Flight Big Band | Free Music, Tour Dates, Photos, Videos



Listen: CD Baby | Search Results






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