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An aptly named album, as the mellow sounds of the Great River Big Band caress one’s senses like a warm breeze flowing softly from its home base in La Crosse, Wisconsin. The twenty–eight–year–old GRBB’s mission, according to the liner notes, is “to preserve and forward the big–band Jazz idiom through live performances for people of all ages and diverse backgrounds.” In concerts and at festivals, the band has played with such renowned Jazz artists as Clark Terry, Frank Wess, Kurt Elling, Randy Brecker, Bob Mintzer, Marshal Royal and many others. And in the recording studio, it has produced this tasteful album of popular standards coupled with Jazz compositions by Ernie Wilkins (“Basie’s Back in Town”), trumpeter Scott Jensen (“Chico’s Chase”), Sammy Nestico (“A Warm Breeze”) and a blistering version of Tchaikovsky’s timeless “Nutcracker Suite.” The album’s four vocals are divided equally between Cathy Reitz (“Willow Weep for Me,” “I Just Found Out About Love”) and drummer Tim Henke (“You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You,” “Makin’ Whoopee”), each of whom is best described as capable — and I wonder if Henke is playing drums while he’s singing? If so, that’s quite a balancing act. The ensemble plays with admirable poise, power and precision (the trombones are especially assertive “On the Sunny Side of the Street”) and boasts a number of dependable soloists who are ready for action when the opportunity presents itself, as it does for pianist Chris Frye, leader Greg Balfany (on flute) and tenors Jeff Erickson and Charles Schreader III (“Basie’s Back in Town”); Frye, Jensen, Erickson and trombonist Brendan Hogan (“Warm Breeze”); Frye, Henke, Balfany (on soprano) and trumpeter David Cooper (“Chico’s Chase”). Balfany is featured (on alto) on Gordon Jenkins’ ballad, “This Is All I Ask,” Frye on another lovely ballad, “For All We Know.” While the Jazz–oriented selections show the ensemble in top form, the album’s highlight is the colorful “Nutcracker,” on which everyone plays with remarkable boldness and vigor. A captivating maiden voyage for the notably seaworthy Great River Big Band.
Contact: Great River Big Band, Greg Balfany, director, Music Department, University of Wisconsin–La Crosse, La Crosse, WI 54601.
Track Listing: I
Personnel: Greg Balfany, director, alto, soprano sax, clarinet, flute; Ron Wilke, alto sax, clarinet; Jeff Erickson, Charles Schreader III, Alex Wilkins, tenor sax; Harry Hindson, baritone sax, bass clarinet; Jeff Reitz, baritone sax; Tom Brown, Scott Jensen, Bix Swerman, Kevin Kohlman, David Cooper, trumpet; George Vonarx, Brendan Hogan, James Wheat, Ross Lewton, trombone; Chris Frye, piano; Karyn Quinn, bass; Tim Henke, drums, vocals; Cathy Reitz, vocals.
Year Released: 2002
| Record Label: GRBB
| Style: Big Band
I love jazz because with it I found my true voice. I have always sung since I was a very small child in school and church. And there have been many genre that I have enjoyed including spiritual, folk, country, latin, soca and pop
I love jazz because with it I found my true voice. I have always sung since I was a very small child in school and church. And there have been many genre that I have enjoyed including spiritual, folk, country, latin, soca and pop. But nothing has touched my artistic sensiblities like JAZZ! Two years ago I moved to Sarasota, FL where I renewed my focus on my singing career and I was so impressed with the quality, quantity and generousity of talented jazz musicains in the Suncoast area. I soon partnered with piano legend Billy Marcus and his trio with Don Mopsick and Stephen Bucholtz. What a blast working with these guys and having them back me up on my first jaz album, Here's To You... which was just released on October 1st. I can't wait to see where the coming year brings me! Check out syniacarrolljazz.com