The George Gee Big Band: Settin' the Pace (2004)
Although they're not typically household names, a strong case can be made that no single group has had more of an influence on the sound of American music than arrangers. One thing that can't be disputed though, is that the arranger is front and center when it comes to big band swing. A first-person participatory tribute to the arranging skills of Frank Foster, the latest from the George Gee Big Band, Settin' the Pace, showcases Foster's music under his own direction. With the big band's seventeen musicians, Foster has plenty of brass at his disposal to chart the complete range of voicings necessary to give this music its combination of strength and beauty.
Drummer Willard Dyson and bassist Daryl Hall are placed up in the mix, and their perfect timing makes this a refreshingly danceable set. In addition, top soloists are also given room to strut their stuff. Pianist Jon Cowherd provides a fine intro for baritone man Howard Johnson and trombonists Eddie Bert, Charles Stephens, and Jack Jeffers to shine on the title piece, while Ellington's "In a Sentimental Mood is soulfully fresh courtesy of saxmen Lance Bryant (on tenor) and Michael Hashim (on alto). Likewise, Renato Thoms lends his Latin percussion to a spirited version of "Mambo Inn and Walt Szymanski's trumpet beautifully commiserates about how it feels "When Your Lover has Gone.
Foster's own compositions are a delight as guitarist Joe Cohn is in fine form on the swinger "Ready Now That You Are GG and Hall sets a perfect pace as the "Bass in Yo' Face. Don't forget to hold your partner tight as vocalist Carla Cook croons three numbers, including an especially sensual "The Very Thought of You, and Bryant lays down his tenor to plead "I Don't Want to Sing the Blues. Swinging arrangements, solid songs, and great players are the basic ingredients for that classic full big band sound. All three are happily present on Settin' the Pace.
Track Listing: Out of Nowhere; Settin' the Pace; Lover Come Back to Me; In a Sentimental Mood; Mambo Inn; Ready Now That You Are GG; Bass in Yo' Face; The Very Thought of You; When Your Lover Has Gone; Autumn Leaves; I Don't Want to Learn to Sing the Blues; Scrapple from the Apple
Personnel: George Gee, leader; Frank Foster, composer, arranger; Eddie Bert,Trombone; Lance Bryant Flute, Arranger, Sax (Tenor), Vocals; Joe Cohn,Guitar; Carla Cook, Vocals; Jon Cowherd, Piano; Willard Dyson, Drums; Daryl Hall, Bass; Michael Hashim, Sax (Alto), Sax (Tenor); Jack Jeffers, Trombone, Trombone (Bass); Ed Pazant, Flute, Sax (Alto); Charles Stephens, Trombone; Walt Szymanski, Trumpet, Flugelhorn; Renato Thoms, Percussion Robert Trowers Trombone Steve Wiseman Flugelhorn, Trumpet (Muted)