If you’d like an up–to–date example of why the first Golden Age of big–band music in this country was known as the Swing Era, simply insert this wonderful disc, recorded in concert in February 1990, in your CD player and crank up the volume. This is music from the heart, a throwback to those memorable days when Lunceford, McShann, Basie, Goodman, Webb and Ellington helped redefine the boundaries of Jazz and big bands swung like there was no tomorrow. Buck Clayton, 78 years old when this recording was made, 22 months before his passing, knew about swing from the inside out — he was a featured trumpet soloist with Basie and Goodman and played alongside many of the most renowned music–makers of the Swing Era — and it is his sunny, perceptive charts that suffuse and enliven this consistently rewarding session. Buck, whose playing days, alas, were behind him, wrote nine of the dozen tunes on Live,
co–wrote the others and arranged all of them. It takes almost no time at all to start one’s toes to tapping as the band breaks smartly from the gate on the easygoing “Scorpio” which enfolds enterprising solos by Finders, Wess, Vaché, Chirillo and Dodgion. A similar mood prevails on “State Line” (with Katz, Temperley, Eckert and Seaton added to the solo mix) before the tempo slows and Stripling takes charge with some Bix–like sorties on the aptly named “Horn o’ Plenty.” Then it’s back to more Lunceford–style swinging on “Rise and Shine” (with the rhythm section of Chirillo, Katz, Seaton and Mackrel providing a sturdy backdrop, as it does on every number). There’s no letdown the rest of the way, with everyone squarely in an easy–rockin’ groove and tenors Wess (“The One for Me”) and Lawrence (“Sparky”) earning bonus points on their showcase numbers. Ballads aren’t overlooked either, with “Song for Sarah” and “What a Beautiful Yesteryear” about as endearing as they come. But this concert is first and foremost about swinging, and few ensembles in recent years have done so with greater warmth or insight than Buck Clayton's irrepressible Swing Band.
Track listing: Scorpio; Swingin’ on the State Line; Horn o’ Plenty; Rise and Shine; The One for Me; B.C. Special; Black Sheep Blues; Sparky; Song for Sarah; Cadillac Taxi; What a Beautiful Yesteryear; The Bowery Bunch (72:42).