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With swing making a mini–comeback in the States and abroad, here’s a high–quality band from Germany that powers its way through no less than 24 well–crafted charts that should have most lovers of swing on their feet and dancing before you can say “Tommy Dorsey.” While many of the songs on the band’s second release, A Date with Swing, are relatively unknown, there are four by Neal Hefti, three of which (“Whirlybird,” “Cute,” “Pony Tail”) are from the Basie book; a couple of seldom–heard Ellington tunes (“Oh! Babe Maybe Someday,” “Scattin’ at the Kit Kat”); one composition each by Benny Goodman (“Music Hall Rag”), Sy Oliver/Jimmie Lunceford (“Stomp It Off”) and Artie Shaw (“Scuttlebutt”), and the standard “Back Home Again in Indiana.” The band’s director, Heinz Schönberger, wrote four others, “A Date with Swing,” “Trombones Preferred,” “Swing Is in the Air” and “Road to Swing,” and they are among the more seductive items on a consistently admirable program. “Whirlybird,” of course, is a litmus test for any saxophone section, and the Power Band’s reeds fare quite well both here and elsewhere. At 4:07, “Whirlybird” is also the longest track on the disc, with most selections more than three but less than four minutes long. While most numbers boast one or more brief but effective solos (including several by Schönberger on clarinet), and splendid work by drummer Kurt Bong and the rhythm section, the emphasis is on the ensemble, and it never fails to please (although a couple of the charts, such as “Indiana,” for example, lean toward lackluster). These, however, are exceptions to the rule, and the greater part of the Power Band’s repertoire is earnest and rewarding. A benchmark by which to measure the proficiency of other contemporary swing bands.
Track listing: Since My Best Girl Turned Me Down; A Date with Swing; Mayfair Swing; Oh! Babe Maybe Someday; Gentle Move; Whirly Bird; You’re a Heavenly Thing; Big Ben Bounce; Indiana; Trombones Preferred; Cute; Music Hall Rag; Swing Is in the Air; Pony Tail; Lover’s Leap; Alexander’s Playmobil; Scattin’ at the Kit Kat; Clap Your Hands; Stomp It Off; Scuttlebutt; Road to Swing; March of the Commanders; Highway Boogie; On the Verge (78:12).
Jazz is a continuing revelation. The best show I ever attended was the
Roots Picnic at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia, or was it Robert
Glasper's Experiment at Lincoln Center, or was it Chick Corea with
Brian Blade at Oberlin College? Most of all I enjoy playing guitar and
composing beats with my Brooklyn-based group Space Captain.