's Heavenly Band makes its home about as far from heaven as one could plausibly roamNew York City, to be precisethe music it produces on Reasons to Be Thankful (recorded in 2000 and released six years later) evokes at times an empyrean vibe, thanks in part to blissful arrangements by Lillard and guitarist Mark McCarron
and spirited blowing by the ensemble. As for the point of view, it might best be described as contemporary swing, employing sophisticated rhythmic and harmonic devices in the service of themes that are firmly anchored in essential tradition.
This is especially true of the instrumental tracks, which number seven including McCarron's groovy "Fast Track" (on which trombones and brass sparkle), Lillard's melodious "Justice Waiting" and Lillard / Carol Chaikin
. In spite of the vagaries of the music business, Lillard has somehow managed to keep the Heavenly Band together for almost twenty years. That is a blessing, and ranks high among the Reasons to Be Thankful. Another twenty or even more? Let us pray . . .
Track Listing: Bluez Organ Man; The Fast Track; Swingin’ the Blues; Justice Waiting; Conclusion Jump; Heavenly; Nonchalant; Incognito; Biznes Changes; Finding Our Own Way; You Can’t Win Blues; Dreamscape / Perfect World; Reasons to Be Thankful.
Personnel: Art Lillard: leader, composer, arranger, drums; Justin Mullens: trumpet; Erik Jekabson: trumpet; Jim Cifelli: trumpet (6); Kyle Whelan: soprano sax; David Valdez: alto sax; Bob Mover: alto sax (2, 3, 9, 11); David Peterson: tenor sax; Jan Leder: flute; Jeff Schiller: flute; Mauricio Smith: flute; Jay Collins: soprano sax, flute (7, 8, 12); Michael Boschen: trombone; Phil Arnold: trombone; Mark McCarron: guitar; Arturo O’Farrill: piano (1, 5, 6, 8, 9, 12); Mike Longo: piano (2-4, 7, 10, 11, 13), vocal (11); Sean Smith: bass (1, 5, 7, 10, 11); George Mitchell: bass (6, 8, 9, 12, 13); Gilad: percussion; Todd Isler: percussion; Mary Foster Conklin: vocals; Cleve Douglass: vocals; Miles Griffith: vocals; Brook Lillard: vocals.