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Referred to as one of the best-kept secrets in jazz, the Oakland-based Montclair Women's Big Band unveils fourteen classic jazz and blues standards on this self-titled debut album. Under the direction of trumpeter and bandleader Ellen Seeling, this seventeen-piece ensenmble plays regularly at the Montclair Women's Cultural Arts Club. The band is comprised of players from all over the Bay Area; this recording also showcases three vocalistsVicki Randle of the Tonight Show house band, Linda Tillery of the Cultural Heritage Choir, and local singer Pamela Roseplus a guest drummer from New York, Allison Miller.
Miller opens up the music to a real swinging start with a hard drum roll on "The Brownsville Express." Vicki Randle leads the group on the familiar "For Once In My Life," the first of her three vocal performances. The ladies open it up on Don Menza's "Groovin' Hard" with some loud and forceful playing and featured solos from Amelia Catalano (baritone) and the leader (trumpet).
Don't miss the popular standard "Teach Me Tonight," arranged by Tom Kubis. This performance includes phenomenal solos by Mad Duran on alto and Jean Fineberg on tenor, plus a beautiful piano chorus by Tammy Hall. If you are a fan of Frank Sinatra's music, then you will appreciate this rendition of "The Lady Is A Tramp," where Randle shares vocals with Tillery, backed up by a big band sound from the orchestra.
The group tones it down on Jobim's samba classic "Quiet Nights," featuring the leader on trumpet. Displaying real diversity, the gals turn back the clock for a taste of old-fashioned swing dance music with "String Of Pearls." Seeling includes a pair of John La Barbera arrangements with "Filthy McNasty" and the Sinatra staple "Fly Me To The Moon." The band concludes with another hot and brassy tune, "Pump It Up."
A swinging big band these ladies surely make. If you want to hit the dance floor for some hip movement, grind to a slower sound, or just listen to a bit of straight-ahead bop, there's enough material here to please your fancy. An excellent power-infused performance with a great selection of charts that captures the essence of this group.
Track Listing: The Brownsville Express; For Once In My Life; River's Invitation; Come Rain Or Come Shine; Groovin' Hard; Teach Me Tonight; The Lady Is A Tramp; Quiet Nights; Taking A Chance On Love; Caravan; String Of Pearls; Filthy McNasty; Fly Me To The Moon; Pump It Up.
Personnel: Barbara Speed, Sonya Jason, Mad Duran, Jean Fineberg, Annelise Zamula, Amelia Catalano: saxophones; Ellen Seeling, Tami Ellis, Christy Dana, Marina Garza: trumpets; Mara Fox, Sarah Cline, Pat Mullan, Becca Burrington: trombones; Tammy Hall: piano; Jan Martinelli: bass; Allison Miller: drums; Vicki Randle, Linda Tillery, Pamela Rose: vocals.