This is the kind of album, says drummer Bill O'Connell, that his Chicago Skyliners must release from time to time to induce the paying gigs that help keep the ensemble together. But even though the songs on Big Bands Greatest Hits are for the most part Swing Era classics, the charts have been lovingly renovated by such contemporary craftsmen as Sammy Nestico, Tom Kubis, Oliver Nelson, Don Sebesky, Dave Wolpe and others, and the Skyliners dig into them with vigor and enthusiasm. As a result, the finished product sounds closer to Clayton""Hamilton, Maynard Ferguson or latter""day Woody Herman than to such swinging precursors as Basie, Ellington, Lunceford, Sy Oliver, Glenn Miller, the Dorsey brothers, Shaw or Goodman, to name but a few. Perhaps the closest the Skyliners come to mimicry is Dave Lowden's celebrated arrangement for Basie of "April in Paris, but O'Connell can't resist tossing another curve by altering the familiar "one more time ending. The leader gets to play Gene Krupa (to Bill Horn's Goodman) on Louis Prima's "Sing Sing Sing, which raised the King of Swing to the top of the big""band ladder in '38, and anchors a potent rhythm section (pianist Reid Spears, bassist Steve Hashimoto) on every number from Joe Garland's "In the Mood (rearranged by Jeff Tyzik) to Billy Strayhorn's "Take the 'A' Train (updated by Don Sebesky). There are vocals by Byron Woods on "Alright, Okay, You Win and "Fly Me to the Moon and a number of enterprising solos, especially by Horn (mostly on alto), tenors Bob Frankich and Frank Catalano, trumpeters Jim Peterson and Terry Connell, Spears and trombonist Mike Joyce. The terrain is well""traveled, that's true, but mapped in a fresh and inventive way by O'Connell's intrepid Skyliners. And like the era they so happily salute, they do swing.
Contact:Blue Birdland Records, 915 Christa Court, Elk Grove Village, IL 60007; phone 847""352""2455. web site, http://members.aol.com/ChiSkyBB (also available from Kendor, Marina Music and Otter Distributors).
Track Listing: In the Mood; Things Ain?t What They Used to Be; Mack the Knife; Who Can I Turn To?; Begin the Beguine; In a Mellow Tone; Stardust; Which Craft; Alright, Okay, You Win; Fly Me to the Moon; Shiny Stockings; April in Paris; Opus One; A String of Pearls; Sing Sing Sing; Take the ?A? Train (64:56).
Personnel: Bill O?Connell, leader, drums; Bill Horn, alto sax, flute; Jon Irabagon, alto sax; Bob Frankich, Frank Catalano, tenor sax; Chip Gdalman, baritone sax; Mike Joyce, Tom Stark, Rich Latka, Matt McDonald, Rich Moss, trombone; Brad Payne, bass trombone; Terry Connell, Jim Peterson, B.J. Levy, Ben Clark, trumpet; Reid Spears, piano; Steve Hashimoto, bass; Byron Woods, vocals.
| Record Label: Blue Birdland Records
| Style: Big Band
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.