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In this earnest salute to the King of Swing, clarinetist Terry Myers and his splendid Florida–based orchestra frame impressive likenesses of songs that helped make Benny Goodman a household name when big bands ruled the musical world. While there’s nothing here that one hasn’t heard before, there’s also nothing that’s not worth hearing again (that’s what made the Swing Era so special), and Myers and Co. stroll resolutely and unapologetically down “the sunny side of the street.” It’s clear they had a lot of fun recording the album, as a result of which the listener does too. Myers isn’t Goodman, and that’s fine, as he’s an accomplished clarinetist in his own right who makes his point without impersonating Benny. As for the sidemen, Myers deserves another gold star for recruiting, as they are first–class in every way. The orchestra packs a formidable punch, glides through the Goodman–style charts without breaking a sweat, and does so with warmth and a buoyant demeanor that’s contagious. Solos are for the most part brief but rewarding, and the rhythm section never stumbles or loses sight of its mandate, which is to keep the orchestra swinging from downbeat to coda. Drummer Eddie Metz is a marvelous Gene Krupa surrogate on “Sing, Sing, Sing,” parts 1 and 2, with Myers, trumpeter Charlie Bertini and tenor Don Mitiken also heard on Part 2. Trombonist John Allred, one of the orchestra’s better–known sidemen, is showcased on the lovely finale, Gordon Jenkins’ “Goodbye,” which Goodman used as his closing theme, and solos as well on “Bugle Call Rag” (with Mitiken and trumpeter Steve Walters), Ray Noble’s “The Very Thought of You” (with trombonist Dave Edwards) and “Poor Butterfly.” Edwards is spotlighted on the fast–moving “Swingtime in the Rockies.” Connie Brink, a competent but otherwise unremarkable vocalist, is featured on “Moonglow,” “And the Angels Sing” and “Almost Like Being in Love.” In a brief liner note, Myers writes that the album is not only a testimonial to the music of Benny Goodman, but also “a tribute to the wonderful generation [that] made the music popular in the first place. The sacrifices they made for all of us in defeating the Depression and the axis powers in World War II made it possible for us to thrive in the last half of the twentieth century. To all of them, we say thanks." Wonderful sentiments indeed, and our hat is off to Myers and his orchestra for honoring those whose selfless endeavors helped pave the way for the peace and prosperity we savor - and too often take for granted - today.
Personnel: Terry Myers, leader, clarinet; Charlie Bertini, Steve Walters, Shawn Gratz, Don Johnson, trumpet; John Allred, Steve Smith, Jerry Edwards, Joe Barati, trombone; Dave Edwards, Bob Davis, Don Mikiten, Rex Wertz, Dave Weaver, reeds; Dave Wolpe, piano; Bob Leary, guitar; Charlie Silva, bass; Eddie Metz, drums; Connie Brink, vocals.