Don Julin
& Glenn Wolff,
Brite Lites, Big Insects
(self-produced, 1999)

There are times when listening to some light jazz is exactly what I need to mellow out. One CD that can definitely help me relax is Don Julin and Glenn Wolff's Brite Lites, Big Insects. With nine instrumentals, one vocal track and a little imagination, I am transported back in time to the '30s.

Don Julin plays the lead instrument on the arrangements found here. He is a master with the mandolin. Although Don is a resident of Northern Michigan, his playing style brings the Italian Mediterranean to my mind. According to his website, he has been playing the mandolin since 1982. Don has played on more CDs than can readily be mentioned here.

Glenn Wolff plays bass. If you check out his website, you will find that he is as accomplished as an artist/book illustrator as he is a bassist. Glenn, too, has showcased his talent on several CDs.

The duo is joined by several special guests who add their talents to the mix. Ron Getz plays the nylon string guitar. Harry Pfennig is on the acoustic guitar. Tom Bourcier completes the Mediterranean picture I mentioned earlier with his accordion. Crispin Campbell is on cello. And finally, Robin Lee Berry provides the album's only vocals on the classic "Corcovado." Her sexy, sultry voice deserves special mention. While it is difficult to select a favorite tune off this CD, Robin's vocals won me over.

Most of the pieces were written separately by either Julin or Wolff. The title track, "Brite Lites, Big Insects," was their only collaborative effort. I like this piece, too. For me, it brings to mind traveling on a train at night more than lights and insects. Perhaps it is because it has a comfortably consistent riff that is reminiscent of background noise on trains. Maybe I just like traveling by train too much.

Whereas Don's tunes have a southern European feel, Glenn's work is more in the vein of traditional American jazz. "Under the Moonlight" is a good example. This piece would be right at home in a smoky, dark jazz joint. And, as might be expected, when the Wolff writes, the bass becomes more noticeable. In fact, the writing style of both musicians is distinct enough that you can easily guess who wrote each selection as the CD progresses.

Other than "Corcovado," Brite Lites, Big Insects has one more standard. The final track is an excellent rendition of "Bye Bye Blackbird." This is a great tune to close out just over 42 minutes of superb music.

I am picky when it comes to listening to jazz. I prefer older jazz styles to the more contemporary versions often heard today. If you, too, enjoy music of the past, then this CD might be just right for your collection. Most of the work is relatively new, but you probably will not be able to tell it was not decades old. Kudos to both Julin and Wolff for producing Brite Lites, Big Insects.

[ by Wil Owen ]
Rambles: 27 October 2001

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