The Avalon Cats Orchestra was formed in June 1998 by drummer and leader Tom Campbell. Its members work in studios and in bands such as those of Horace Silver, Les Brown, and Gerald Wilson. These players are no neophytes, their big band jazz and swing credentials are unimpeachable.
The group's objective is to provide a high level of energy and excitement that characterized the big bands of yore, but with fewer players. The result is music that is both new and familiar played with expertise, excitement and enthusiasm. Ensemble playing is tight and solos, while improvisional, have meaning and are not nondirectional rambling. "Tenderly" is a venue for musicians to show off solo skills. Especially notable here are Rusty Higgins' Benny Carter like alto and Larry Koonse's guitar. On Benny Goodman's "Don't Be That Way" it's hard to believe that this isn't a 16 piece outfit. The "clarinet " solos are shared by Bob Summers' trumpet and Rusty Higgins' sax, with the customary drum breaks by Campbell. Vocalist Julia Holland recalls Glenn Miller's "Don't Sit under the Apple Tree". But here the group adds a bit of traditional jazz with a wailing Higgins clarinet dominating. And so it goes. The tunes are from the books of those big bands of the 1940's like Tommy Dorsey, Les Brown and Woody Herman, with a contemporary ringer Horace Silver's "Sister Sadie" thrown in. But the Avalon Cats give the arrangements a slight wrench so they are not just mere imitations of the originals. "Four Brothers", with trumpet player Gary Halopoff guesting, features the famous quartet, but not with saxophones.
Four Feet to the Beat is 45 minutes of music expertly and confidently played by a finely tuned, well-honed clique of jazz artists. Recommended.
Personnel: Tom Campbell - Drums/Leader; Les Benedict - Trombone; Rusty Higgins - Tenor & Alto Saxes/Clarinet; Larry Koonse - Guitar/Banjo; Tom Rainer - Piano/Clarinet*; Richard Simon, Kirk Smith$ - Bass; Bob Summers, Gary Halopoff# - Trumpet; Don Williams^ - Percussion; Julia Holland - Vocalist