Big Brass marks one of trumpeter Benny Bailey's earliest efforts as a leader, but it is also one of the best releases of his career. Joined by an all-star septet including Phil Woods, Julius Watkins, and Les Spann in the front line, plus a rhythm section consisting of Tommy Flanagan, Buddy Catlett, and Art Taylor, Bailey and his musicians shine in their interpretations of charts by Quincy Jones, Hale Smith, Oliver Nelson, and Tom McIntosh.
Altoist Donald Harrison's disc utilizes New Orleans parade rhythms on all of the selections, even while most of the solos (until the final three numbers) are more hard bop than New Orleans jazz. John O'Neal verbally pays tribute to the rhythms on the opening "And How That Rhythm." The other selections include an augmented bop blues ("Two Way Pocky Way"), the tricky "Don't Drink the Water," Thelonious Monk's "Bye-Ya," a pair of Freddie Hubbard tunes well worth reviving ("Crisis" and "Bob's Place"), Sonny Rollins' "Oleo," and the catchy "Spirits of Congo Square."
Reach the Beach is a significant step forward from the Fixx's debut album, Shuttered Room, simply because the band can now craft immediately accessible, incessantly catchy pop/rock melodies. "One Thing Leads to Another" has a big, ringing guitar hook hammered home by the dance beat, while "Saved by Zero" and "The Sign of Fire" are cool, robotic slices of synth pop. Although the rest of the album isn't quite as catchy as those three hits, Reach the Beach remains a pleasant collection of immaculately produced and stylishly danceable new wave.