P>Over the last few years, Doc Severinsen has kept a big band together by playing concerts and touring. This successor to the Tonight Show Band, so important to the success of the Johnny Carson show, continues to feature fresh, imaginative arrangements and stellar musicians to perform them. Many members of the group not only played with Severinsen on the Tonight show, but have their roots in the big band, swing tradition like Conte Candoli, Bill Perkins and especially Snooky Young who anchors the trumpet section. Critical to the success of a big band is a drummer who can drive the group, as well as take a roof raising solo from time to time. Ed Shaughnessy fills that prescription. Not only does he move the band with his relentless beat, but he hammers out some significant solos. That he is out of the Gene Krupa school of drumming is evident on Topsy. His performance recalls the Krupa solo on "Sing, Sing, Sing" at the 1938 Carnegie Hall Concert. He isn't all that subtle, but he sure can swing. "Topsy" is one of the highlights of the session and alone is worth the price of the album.
Severinsen is also generous is his distribution of solo time among the rest of the band members, as well as reserving time for himself. Doc is especially prominent on the Joe Oliver/Clarence Williams "West End Blues", an early favorite of Louis Armstrong. After an opening chorus from Severinsen, Bill Perkins comes in, assuming the Harry Carney baritone sax role on "In a Sentimental Mood", getting strong backing from Ross Tompkins' piano. Severinsen takes some more licks on a fervent arrangement of Bob Haggard's classic "What's New" recalling that Haggard was the first to occupy the bass chair in the original Tonight Show Band. The CD's denouement, "The Supreme Sacrifice", is a gospel-like number complete with Bill Cunliffe's Hammond B-3 organ, rumbling choruses from Mike Daigeau's trombone and Snooky Young' trumpet, with some parting shots from Severinsen.
As icing on this musical cake, vocalist Barbara Morrison joins the group as "girl singer". Her presence also strengths the blues credentials for this session. She plays Joe Williams on "Every Day I Have the Blues" and does "Don't Touch Me" (pleasantly risque), and" The Hucklebuck", sharing the stage with Conte Candoli's trumpet.
Probably no other form of jazz demands good, solid arrangements than big band swing. This album has outstanding material, with seven arrangements by the dependable Tommy Newsom and the rest divided among Artie Butler, John Bambridge and Bill Holman. Good arrangements, a fine play list and top flight musicians in a driving big band puts this album in the highly recommended category.
Tracks:Intro a la Indigo;C Jam Blues;Every Day I Have the Blues*;Wang Wang Blues**;In a Sentimental Mood;Happy Go Lucky Local Blues*Doc and Snooky Banter;Don't Touch Me*; Topsy; What's New;The Hucklebuck*;All Blues;West End Blues;The Supreme Sacrifice**#