Can I Persuade You? (Planet Arts Recordings)

The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra

Released May 2002

Grammy Nominee for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album 2003




For over three decades the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra (VJO) has been committed to engaging audiences in jazz and related musical experiences. One of the driving forces behind the longevity and artistic excellence of this ensemble is a commitment to the original Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra precepts of sound and the nurturing and encouragement of creativity and experimentation in the creators, performers and listeners of jazz. As a result, the orchestra serves as a creative outlet for some of the nation’s foremost performers, composers, and arrangers.

Sixteen as One Music Inc., a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) corporation, was created by the VJO to promote the development and growth of jazz music through performance, education and community outreach programs. The goals of this endeavor are to provide world-wide performances, workshops, lectures and symposia about jazz and related musical genres; to commission new arrangements and original compositions for jazz orchestra; to document historical and innovative projects through audio and video recordings; to initiate partnerships and collaborations with cultural, education and corporate institutions; to help build and sustain an international jazz audience; to foster and promote jazz education in schools and under-served communities.

Since 1995, the VJO has been re-establishing itself as one of the leading jazz orchestras in the world. Through Sixteen as One Music Inc., the orchestra has successfully secured funds to commission and record new work. Lickety Split – The Music of Jim McNeely was nominated for a GRAMMY award and voted one of the top ten jazz CD’s of 1997 by the New York Times. The Thad Jones Legacy, winner of the association for independent music (AFIM) 2000 indie award for best big band jazz recording was voted one of the top ten jazz recordings of 1999 by Gary Giddons. 

Can I Persuade You, the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra’s (VJO) first release on Planet Arts Recordings features music from the orchestra’s extensive library, including work from Garnett Brown, Jimmy Giuffre, Bill Holman, Bob Mintzer and Ed Neumeister. A Special feature of this project is the music of Julie Cavadini. Ms. Cavadini was a protégé of Bill Finnegan and contributed to the band’s repertoire during Bob Brookmeyer’s tenure as artistic director. Julie’s untimely death at the age of thirty-two prevented her from becoming established in the jazz world but her limited musical output was strong enough to pass the difficult and demanding artistic sensibilities of both Mel Lewis and Bob Brookmeyer

This recording is a collection of compositions and arrangements that have been regularly performand by the VJO over the years but have never been recorded or have not been recorded recently. This collection does not contain one Thad Jones (founding member of the VJO) contribution, but instead exposes some of the “non-Thad” musical facets that the band regularly draws upon. The recording was made possible through generous grants from: The Aaron Copland Fund for Music, The Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust and The New York State Council on the Arts.

Track Listing:

1. Dragon Fly 7:38

Solos: Dennis Irwin, Jim McNeely, Rich Perry, Scott Wendholt

2. Antigua 7:27

Solos: Dennis Irwin, Jim McNeely

3. A Simple Wish 5:29

Solos: Scott Wendholt

4. ESP 7:49

Solos: Dick Oatts, John Riley, Scott Wendholt

5. Sophisticated Lady 5:24

Solos: Gary Smulyan, John Mosca

6. Bachafillen (Garnett Brown) 6:13

Solos: Bill Drewes, Ralph Lalama, Luis Bonilla

7. Can I Persuade You 6:49

Solos: Dick Oatts

8. Just Friends (John Klenner) 12:49

Solos: Billy Drewes, Dick Oatts, Gary Smulyan, John Riley, Ralph Lalama, Rich Perry


Vanguard Jazz Orchestra

Director: John Mosca

Trumpets: Earl Gardner, Joe Mosello, Glenn Drewes, Scott Wendholt

Trombones: John Mosca, Luis Bonilla, Jason Jackson, Douglas Purviance

Alto & Soprano Sax/Flute: Dick Oatts

Alto & Soprano Sax/flute/clarinet: Billy Drewes

Tenor Sax/Flute: Rich Perry

Tenor Sax/Flute/Clarinet: Ralph Lalama

Bass Clarinet, Baritone Sax: Gary Smulyan

Piano: Jim McNeely

Drums: John Riley

Bass: Dennis Irwin

Brazilian Percussion: Daduka da Fonseca

French Horn: Peter Gordon

Recorded January 4 – 5, 2001, at Edison Recording Studios, New York City

Producers: Douglas Purviance and Thomas Bellino

Engineer: Gary Chester

Assistant Engineer: Jim Murray

Mastered by Alan Silverman

Design: Valerie Trucchia

Artistic director: Dick Oatts

Band photo: Roberto Rabanne

Session photos: Anthony Bellino


The title song on the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra’s latest album was written by the late Julie Cavadini whose untimely passing at age thirty—one in 1988 deprived the Jazz world of one of its more promising big—band composers. Cavadini, to whose memory the album is dedicated, also wrote the lovely and harmonically radiant “Simple Wish,” another of her several compositions that have become an indispensable part of the VJO’s book. 
Vanguard, which began life in 1966 as the Thad Jones / Mel Lewis Orchestra, plays them with dexterity and warmth, as it does everything else on this consistently dynamic studio date. In other words, the VJO continues to become ever more impressive as it carries forward the remarkable legacy of its fallen leaders. Personnel—wise, Vanguard is as well—endowed as any band one can name, and here it has amplified its conspicuous prowess with compositions and arrangements that are as pleasing to the ears as they are inspiring to the heart, from Jimmy Giuffre’s darting “Dragon Fly” to Bill Holman’s assertive arrangement of “Just Friends.” Even with topnotch soloists in almost every chair, the VJO keeps the focus on the ensemble as a whole, which is as it should be. Usually, one or two players are featured and given ample room to stretch. Bassist Dennis Irwin and pianist Jim McNeely are the principals on Bob Mintzer’s bouncy calypso, “Antigua,” trumpeter Scott Wendholt on “A Simple Wish,” baritone Gary Smulyan and trombonist John Mosca on Garnett Brown’s charming out—of—tempo arrangement of Ellington’s “Sophisticated Lady,” alto Dick Oatts on “Can I Persuade You.”  The exceptions are “Just Friends” (solos by Smulyan, Oatts, alto Billy Drewes, tenors Ralph Lalama and Rich Perry, drummer John Riley); “Dragon Fly” (Perry, Irwin, McNeely, Wendholt); Wayne Shorter’s energetic “ESP” (Wendholt, Oatts, Riley) and Brown’s boisterous “Bachafillen” (Drewes, Lalama, trombonist Luis Bonilla). McNeely, Irwin and Riley comprise an indefatigable rhythm section that gives every soloist a suitable comfort zone and sees to it that the orchestra never stops swinging. 
Once the last note had been played and the curtain drawn, this reviewer was persuaded that Can I Persuade You? represents, in sum, the VJO’s best recorded work to date.

Jack Bowers (All About Jazz)