Art Lillardís Heavenly Band: Reasons to be Thankful (2006)
Recorded in 2000, this session by Art Lillard's big band combines lively swing and a traditional mainstream essence into one original package. Lillard and members of his organization wrote the music for this romping program. Lillard, a drummer, leads the band with a swinging rhythmic foundation and comfortable strides. He brings in vocal soloists for six of the thirteen tracks.
Lillard's variable-pitch drum solo on "Bluez Organ Man, and the song's incredible fusion of Caribbean percussion with big band, is one of the session's high points. Similarly, "Incognito, with its exotic tango-esque persona and lively Latin percussion surroundings, makes a distinct impression. The album features welcome solos by trombonist Michael Boschen, tenor saxophonist David Peterson, guitarist Mike McCarron, flutist Mauricio Smith, trumpeter Jim Cifelli and several others.
Lillard, a veteran who's been at it for over 35 years, has led his Heavenly Big Band since 1987 in New York. In '98, he led a septet in appearances on two episodes of CBS television's Guiding Light soap opera. "Bluez Organ Man and "Incognito convey their rhythmic essence succinctly, while "You Can't Win Blues demonstrates the album's dedication to the vocalese tradition. Lillard's opening drum solo on "Swingin' the Blues Away sets the pace for the aspect of his music that's suited to comfortable dance and a thrilling ride.
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Track Listing: Bluez Organ Man; The Fast Track; Swinginí the Blues Away; Justice Waiting; Conclusion Jump; Heavenly; Nonchalant; Incognito; Biznes Changes; Finding Our Own Way; You Canít Win Blues; Dreamscape/Perfect World; Reasons to be Thankful.
Personnel: Art Lillard: drums, leader; Jan Leder, Jeff Schiller, Mauricio Smith, Jay Collins: flute; Kyle Whelan: soprano saxophone; David Valdez: alto saxophone; David Peterson: tenor saxophone; Justin Mullens, Erik Jekabson: trumpet; Michael Boschen, Phil Arnold: trombone; Mark McCarron: guitar; Mike Longo, Arturo OíFarrill: piano; Sean Smith, George Mitchell: bass; Mary Foster Conklin, Cleve Douglass, Miles Griffith, Brook Lillard: vocals.