Published since 1997
A former newspaper writer / editor who has been writing about jazz for more than twenty years.
My brother Ed saw and heard the Radio King Orchestra playing recently at a suburban Maryland shopping mall and suggested that I check it out. And so I have.
The RKO is a tight, swinging large ensemble (a nonet on Live from Timpano ) that performs music from the Big Band Era (read Miller, Goodman, Dorsey, Krupa, etc.) on RKO, standard and contemporary themes (from Cole Porter to Sinatra and Tony Bennett) on Timpano, and seasonal fare with a big-band flair on Boogie. The co-leaders are Rick Gordon (trumpet) and Robin Gordon (vocals), which means there's a lot of singing on all three discs, the most recent of which (as near as I can determine) is RKO, recorded in August 2002 (no dates are given for Boogie ).
RKO is fairly evenly divided between instrumentals (six) and vocals (five), on which Frau Gordon, who has admirable stage presence, sounds as though she'd have been right at home in front of one of the many dance bands that were so enormously popular a few generations ago. Miller is represented by "American Patrol" and "In the Mood," Tommy Dorsey by "Song of India," Goodman by "And the Angels Sing," Krupa by "Drum Boogie," Goodman/Krupa by "Sing Sing Sing," Perez Prado by "Mambo #5," keeping company with renovated charts by Dave Wolpe, Roger Holmes, Jerry Nowak and Jeff Hest. Drummer Tom Barrick does a splendid job sitting in for Krupa on "Sing Sing Sing," and there are brief but engaging solos by saxophonist Doug Gately, trombonist Dave Bandman (great name!) and trumpeter Dave Robinson.
Live from Timpano (a local Italian chophouse the band calls home) offers the spontaneity and excitement of a club date and substantially more playing time (50:44) than RKO but this is basically the "Robin Gordon show," as the pared-down group plays back-up for its singing co-leader on all but one of the album's seventeen numbers (the tediously overbooked "Night Train"). The solos, by Robinson, alto/clarinetist Don New, tenors Gary Gregg and Mike Cappetto, trombonist Todd Baldwin, trumpeter Tom Palance and pianist Mark Kotishion, are quick and cursory. The middle-of-the-road program includes five songs by Cole Porter and others by Irving Berlin and Rodgers and Hart with a handful of more recent but immediately recognizable numbers.
Robin Gordon is liberally showcased again on Boogie, laying bare her vocal talents on all but two selections (Leroy Anderson's "Sleigh Ride," Frank Comstock's arrangement of "Swinging Little Drummer Boy," the first featuring Cappetto's alto sax, the second Barrick's drums and Gregg's clarinet). As on RKO and Timpano, the chartsthree by Frank DeVol, others by Bandman, Holmes, Wolpe, Nowak, Rick Gordon and Glenn Miller/Bill Finneganare bright and perky, the band smooth and synchronous. Happy seasonal music with a Jazzy veneer that should warm the hearts of those who can't get enough of the threadbare lyrics.
Visit the Radio King Orchestra on the web.
Tracks: RKO I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter; Drum Boogie; My Funny Valentine; Song of India; Mambo #5; The Way You Look Tonight; Orange Colored Sky; American Patrol; In the Mood; And the Angels Sing; Sing Sing Sing (39:19). Timpano Ain't That a Kick in the Head; The Best Is Yet to Come; Thou Swell; I Get a Kick Out of You; From This Moment On; When I Fall in Love; It's All Right with Me; I've Got You Under My Skin; Too Darn Hot; Night Train; Cheek to Cheek; Witchcraft; The Summer Wind; The Lady Is a Tramp; Mack the Knife; Too Marvelous for Words; When You Wish Upon a Star (50:44). Boogie Put a Little Boogie in My Stocking; Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!; White Christmas; Frosty the Snowman; Sleigh Ride; Boogie Woogie Santa Claus; Winter Wonderland; What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?; Swinging Little Drummer Boy; Santa Claus Is Coming to Town; Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer; Jingle Bells; The Christmas Song (38:44).
Personnel: RKO (tracks 1-7, 10) Rick Gordon, co-leader, trumpet; Robin Gordon, co-leader, vocals; Mike Davis, Ted Gordon, Dave Robinson, trumpet; Doug Gately, alto, tenor sax; Mike Cappetto, alto sax; Steve Churchill, Earl Jackson, tenor sax; Todd Baldwin, Todd Sahlroot, Dave Bandman, trombone; Mark Kotishion, piano; Jay Miles, bass; Tom Barrick, drums. Tracks 8, 9, 11 Don New, alto sax, replaces Gately; Gary Gregg, alto, tenor, clarinet, Mario D'Ambosio, tenor, replace Churchill, Jackson; Greg Watkins, bass, replaces Miles; Davis, Gordon, Robinson, trumpet, Shahlroot, trombone, out. Timpano Rick Gordon, co-leader, trumpet; Robin Gordon, co- leader, vocals; Robinson, trumpet; Cappetto, Don New, alto sax, clarinet; Gary Gregg, tenor sax, clarinet; Baldwin, trombone; Kotishion, piano; Greg Watkins, bass; Barrick, drums. Boogie Same as Timpano but add Baldwin, Dave Cannon, trombone; Joe Morra, piano; Lori Boyd, Laurie Hay, background vocals.
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