In the press materials accompanying Uptown Swing
, trombonist Jeff Williams describes the Uptown 5 as "a swing quintet playing mainly Basie and Basie influenced music utilizing the enormous and under-used sound of the trombone and tenor saxophone. The description is certainly true, as far as it goes, but it leaves out the palpable sense of joy these musicians communicate while playing the music they love. While the sounds are certainly not cutting edge, the affection evident in the performances brings the material right up to date.
Basie's "Blue and Sentimental, almost the platonic conception of what one would ideally hear when feeling blue and sentimental, is given a lovely reading featuring sensitive contributions by tenor saxophonist Al Nicholls and pianist Hilary Cameron, in addition to some marvelous, old-timey trombone work from Williams. Alongside the selections by Basie and Ellington (including a spirited run through "Battle Royal, the number on which the Basie and Ellington bands met back in 1961) are a number of originals by Nicholls that fit in admirably with the rest of the program. Both "Looking Uptown and "Bebe's Blues are jaunty, catchy compositions that prove to be fine showcases for the band.
Avoiding anything trendy or gimmicky, Uptown Swing features musicians who respect their source music too much to treat it like a museum piece. The album is wonderfully vital and pays fine tribute to the music and musicians that inspired it.
Personnel: Jeff Williams-trombone; Al Nicholls-tenor saxophone; Hilary Cameron-piano; John Rees-Jones-bass; Rex Bennett-drums