The Jonny Cooper Orchestra is an American–style dance band from South Africa, of all places, and a fairly decent one at that. On Legends of Swing, which we presume is the orchestra’s recorded debut, trumpeter Cooper and his comrades pay tribute to bandleaders Tommy Dorsey, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller and Harry James, Jazz pathfinder Louis Armstrong, vocalist Ella Fitzgerald and composer Earle Hagen. Even though the charts are unremarkable and the orchestra unassuming, the music is beyond reproach and always a pleasure to hear no matter how unsteady the framework on which it rests. The album begins with a salute to Dorsey, Sy Oliver’s “Opus One,” which includes the first of several bright solos by guest trumpeter Jan Johansson. Basie is next up with Neal Hefti’s “The Kid from Red Bank,” on which pianist Gavin Fullard sits in for the Count, then Ellington (“I’m Beginning to See the Light,” solos by Johansson and tenor Ron Franchitti). The JCO employs two vocalists, Kate Normington and Donald Tshomela. Normington is heard on two songs associated with Ella, “That Old Black Magic” and “My Funny Valentine,” while Tshomela presides over the band’s homage to Armstrong, “Mack the Knife.” Drummer McGill Anderson and clarinetist Stuart Goodwin are featured on Louis Prima’s “Sing Sing Sing” (dedicated to Goodman), Johansson on “You Made Me Love You” (ditto to James), Goodwin (alto) on Hagen’s “Harlem Nocturne,” trombonist Clive Sharrock on Dorsey’s familiar theme, “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You.” The JCO saves Miller for last, bowing respectfully to the undisputed monarch of the big–band era with “A String of Pearls” (solos by Franchitti, trumpeter Julian Ford, alto Simon Bates) and Joe Garland’s evergreen, “In the Mood” (Blake, trumpet; Goodwin, alto; Franchitti, tenor). Smooth, pleasant dance music with a touch of Jazz, on the order of that produced by the giants to whom the album is dedicated.
Track Listing: Opus One; The Kid from Red Bank; I
Personnel: Jonny Cooper, leader, trumpet; Mike Blake, Julian Ford, David Abrahams, Lee Thomson, trumpet; Clive Sharrock, Mike Nixon, Sym Yarrow, Lawrence Jacobs, trombone; Stuart Goodwin, alto, tenor sax, clarinet; Simon Bates, alto sax; Ron Franchitti, tenor sax, clarinet; John McBeath, tenor sax; Llewelyn Arnold, baritone sax, clarinet; Gavin Fullard, piano; Martin Nosworthy, guitar; Don Williams, bass; McGill Anderson, drums; Donald Tshomela, Kate Normington, vocals. Guest artist