When one is employed as a sideman with the Count Basie Orchestra, as tenor saxophonist Doug Lawrence has been for several years, he learns a thing or two about Big Band Swing. Lawrence has also worked for Benny Goodman, Buck Clayton, Grover Mitchell, Frank Wess, Loren Schoenberg, Tony Corbiscello and the Smithsonian, DMP and Manhattan and Chicago Jazz Orchestras, among others. He has put those lessons to good use on this impressive new release by not one but two of his powerful, close-knit orchestras, one based in Chicago, the other in New York City.
To be honest, there's a lot of Chicago represented here, but not much New York, as at least fourteen of the album's eighteen selections definitely were recorded by the Midwest ensemble (three others, on which Lawrence is the lone soloist, are open to debateI'd guess Chicago, as Chris Flory's rhythm guitar from the NYC group is either absent or inaudiblewhile Claudette Sierra, listed as vocalist with the East Coast orchestra, is heard on Ellington's "I Got It Bad ). The other vocals, three in all, are by Chicago's Jennifer Shelton (both Sierra and Shelton, by the way, are quite good). Shelton shines on another Ellington favorite, "I'm Beginning to See the Light, Harold Arlen/Ted Koehler's "When the Sun Comes Out and Jule Styne/Sammy Cahn's "Saturday Night (Is the Loneliest Night of the Year).
The numbers on which Lawrence has center stage to himself include the standard "It Never Entered My Mind, Mikos Hadjidakis' theme from the film "Never On Sunday and Bob Ojeda's lively "Swingin' at the Orchid. Besides Lawrence's showpieces, the wonderful trumpeter Art Davis, one of Chicago's best-kept secrets, is featured on "The Nearness of You and Benny Carter's "Meetin' Time, trombonist Tom Garling on Horace Silver's "Doodlin', trombonist Scott Bentall on Burt Bacharach/Hal David's theme from "Alfie. Other strapping solos are delivered courtesy of trumpeters Ojeda, Tito Carillo and Scott Wagstaff, alto Jerry DiMuzio and pianist John Campbell, all from the Chicago orchestra.
Lawrence opens with another Benny Carter classic, "Jackson County Jubilee, and closes with Sammy Nestico's ambling, Basie-like "Queen Bee. Other head-turners, besides those already mentioned, include Thad Jones' "Don't Get Sassy and the standards "Moon River, "Come Fly with Me, "Teach Me Tonight and "There'll Be Some Changes Made. To give you an idea of how long it takes some of these big band enterprises to get off the ground, the NYC orchestra was recorded in April of '99, the Chicago ensemble in March of 2000. Worth waiting for? Yes (followed immediately by mandatory exclamation point). Singular or plural, New York and/or Chicago, Lawrence's orchestra knows how to swing and does so consistently.
Jackson County Jubilee; I
Chicago Orchestra: Doug Lawrence: conductor, tenor saxophone; Joey Tartell, Scott
Wagstaff, Art Davis, Bob Ojeda, Tito Carillo: trumpet; Chris Lega: alto, soprano saxophone;
Jerry DiMuzio: alto saxophone; Hank Ford: tenor saxophone; Ron Kolber: baritone
saxophone; Scott Bentall, Tom Garling, Kevin Quail: trombone; Tom Matta: bass trombone;
John Campbell: piano; John Whitfield: bass; Joel Spencer: drums; Jennifer Shelton: vocals.
New York Orchestra: Doug Lawrence: conductor, tenor saxophone; John Eckert, John
Bailey, Tony Speranza: trumpet; David Glasser, Arun Luthra: alto saxophone; Jim Perry:
tenor saxophone; Larry Wade: baritone saxophone; Bruce Eidem, Harvey Tibbs, Don
Mikkelsen: trombone; Tardo Hammer: piano; Chris Flory: guitar; Wayne Robert: bass; Tony
Corbiscello: drums; Claudette Sierra: vocals.
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