John Burnett & His Orch. Featuring Buddy DeFranco: Swingin' in the Windy City
P>John Burnett has a day job as a jazz broadcaster for FM station WDCB in Chicago. In 1999 he put together a very fine orchestra made up of top notch Chicago musicians. Many of them have had considerable big band experience with Glenn Miller's, Barrett Deems and others. Several members also play in another Windy City-based aggregation, Lenny King's Chicago Metropolitan Jazz Orch.
For this maiden album, Burnett has scored a coup by getting one of the true icons of jazz to join him, clarinetist Buddy DeFranco. Although just on three tracks, his presence clearly has inspired the members of the band to go all out. The result is an outstanding hours' worth of music. The session reminds one of Duke Ellington's road performances. You could dance to his music or just sit back and listen, or do both, and be happy. For those who lean toward the dancing, there's a haunting Mike Brown arrangement of "Stardust" recalling Artie Shaw, except the solos are taken by trumpet players Mike McGrath and Terry Connell with Connell reaching the stratosphere with a high note at the end. The band's rendition of "East of the Sun (and West of the Moon)" brings back images of bodies undulating across a dance floor at one of the great ballrooms in the 1930's and 40's. An album highlight is Hary Kozlowski's tender trombone solo on "My Foolish Heart". He gets a very unique sound out of that tricky to play instrument.
Non dancing listeners can revel in such high flying concert renditions of" Sing, Sing, Sing", "Corner Pocket" and "Shiny Stockings". DeFranco is on the first and holds back coming in until close to the end. His clarinet solo is not Benny Goodman's. Rather it reflects DeFranco's more modern and subtle approach with the clarinet which works well in this setting. Gene Krupa (cowbell and all) is played by Bill Byan who matches Krupa's hard driving swinging, but with fewer dramatics. For icing on the cake, "girl singer" Frieda Lee steps to the mike on a truly lovely interpretation of "Our Love Is Here to Stay" and an up beat "Deed I Do".
Slide Hampton's boppish "The Blues" ends the session and features DeFranco. This piece is just up his alley as he was one of the first to move the clarinet into the "new music" of the later 1940's and 1950's and one of the few to do it successfully. Here DeFranco shares solo honors with the trombone of David Gross. As the last track on the album, it is a fitting coda to almost an hour of exemplary, dynamic big band music. Highly recommended.
Track Listing: Corner Pocket; Deed I Do#; Sing, Sing, Sing*; Stardust; Our Love Is Here to Stay#; My Foolish Heart; Out of Nowhere*; I've Got the World on a String; Shiny Stockings; East of the Sun (and West of the Moon); Moten Swing; Hot Java Jump; The Blues*
Personnel: John Burnett - Leader; Buddy DeFranco* - Clarinet; Rich Corpolongo, David Creighton - Alto Sax; Frank Catalano, David Kublank -Tenor Sax; Bruce Mack - Baritone Sax; Terry Connell, Mike McGrath, Mike Shires, Jim Donovan - Trumpet; David Gross, Tom Stark, Hary Kozlowski, Bill Walsh - Trombone; Mike Flack - Piano; Geoff Lowe - Bass; Bill Byan - Drums; Frieda Lee# - Vocal
Record Label: Chicago Lakeside Jazz
Style: Big Band