Nancie Banks Orchestra: Ear Candy
The tone is set for Nancie's Bank's third album by an opening six second exclamation, "Bird Lives!", by eight year old Jaclyn Barrero. The album features several cuts associated with notable practitioners (and in one case one the inventors) of Be-Bop, e.g., Sonny Rollins, Charlie Parker and Bud Powell. This is not to imply that the playing is asymmetric or off center. But it carries with it that sense of adventure that these musicians created. With their new approach to jazz music. The first three cuts show off the startling dynamics of the excellently contrived Nancie Banks orchestrations, as they run through three bop anthems. "Waltz for Zweetie" provides a respite from the up tempo as it features Alexander McCabe's Phil Wood's influenced alto sax and lightly scrolled ruminations by pianist Oliver von Essen. We have to wait until track five before we get to hear Banks in her girl singer role. With the lyrics she wrote for Charlie Parker's "Anthropology/Surviving on a Riff", she offers a one minute discourse on the theme that "music makes the world go round". Banks is accompanied in this oration by Michael Max Fleming's bass and Brian Grice's drums. Her only other solo is also short, this time taking a vocalese stance for Bud Powell's "Oblivion/Oblivious", for which she also provided the lyrics. It's too bad Banks limited herself to two vocals since she has a very pleasant voice.
Inventive but controlled trombone by Count Basie veteran, Clarence Banks, stars on "Nancy with the Laughing Face". Then there's a poignant Allison's Flower, composed by Banks to honor her childhood friend one of the four Kent State students who lost their lives to a National Guardsman's bullet during the Vietnam war protests day. "You've Changed", one of the very few slow tempo tunes on the CD, is an album highlight. Enrique Fernandez's alto gives a passionate, mellifluous rendering of this lovely tune without extraneous embellishment.
Banks' group has been recording since 1992, but this is only their 3rd album during those years and their first in five years. It's regrettable that this fine organization can't hook up with a record label to produce a steadier stream of releases. Visit Nancie's web site at www. jazzsingers.com/NancieBanks.
Tracks:BIRD LIVES!; St. Thomas; Jordu#; Waltz for Zweetie*; Anthropology/Surviving on a Riff; Nancy with the Laughing Face#; Allison's Flower*; Oblivion/Oblivious#; You've Changed*; Tolliver's Travels*PersonnelNancie Banks - Vocals/Conductor; Jaclyn Barrero - Vocals; Oliver Von Essen - piano; Michael Max Fleming - Bass; Brian Grice - drums; Tony Barrero, Anibal Martinez, Frank Gordon, James Zollar - Trumpets; John Gordon, Clarence Banks, Aaron Johnson, Jack Jeffers - Trombone; Enrique Fernandez, Alexander McCabe*, Brad Leali# - Alto Saxophone; Marshall McDonald, Neal Sugarman - Tenor Saxophone - Richard Johnson - Baritone Saxophone
Style: Big Band