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Up to this point, Michael Feinstein has focused his talents on Broadway and Tin Pan Alley tunes. This is his first foray into big band swing, and it's a rewarding and satisfying effort. Feinstein exhibits expressiveness, precision, and an excellent command of dynamics. Maynard Ferguson is primarily in a supporting role here, fronting a full big band comprised of his current Big Bop Nouveau personnel, some alumni, and some L.A. big band pros. He does get a few solo spots, such as a trademark high-note solo on "You Can't Lose 'em All," plus some mellow flugelhorn and muted trumpet ornamentations throughout the disc. The consistently excellent big band arrangements are by Alan Broadbent, Tom Garling, Eddie Karam, Mort Lindsey, and Patrick Williams.
This is a well-chosen batch of tunes. While there are some well-known standards (such as "The Very Thought of You," "Girl Talk," "Johnny One Note," "When Your Lover Has Gone"), most of the other tunes are lesser-known numbers, and provide most of the disc's pleasures. Feinstein's own compositions "Rhythm of the Blues" and "Swing is Back in Style" are excellent additions to the repertoire. There are some great lyrics, too, especially on "Ev'rything You Want is Here" and "Swing is Back in Style."
While the styles and past works of Michael Feinstein and Maynard Ferguson may not suggest a compatible match-up, this pairing works quite well. The result is closer to Feinstein's bag than Ferguson's, but then his is the leader of the date. Feinstein takes to swing quite naturally, and I hope to him more from him in this vein. Ferguson, who to my knowledge has not been recorded backing a singer since Chris Connor (circa 1960), adapts to this role well. (Concord Jazz CCD 4869)
Tracks:Close Your Eyes; The Very Thought of You; Let Me Off Uptown; Girl Talk; You Can't Lose 'em All; One Day at a Time; The Rhythm of the Blues; The One I Love Belongs to Someone Else; Ev'rything You Want is Here; Johnny One Note; Swing is Back in Style; Love is Nothin' but a Racket; Lullabye in Rhythm; When Your Lover Has Gone/The Gal that Got Away; New York, New York; How Little We Know. (65:52)
Michael Feinstein - vocals, piano; Maynard Ferguson - bandleader, trumpet, flugelhorn; Earl MacDonald - piano; Dennis Budimir - guitar; Brian Stahurski - bass; Dave Throckmorton, Albie Berk - drums; Larry Bunker - percussion; Adolpho Acosta, Wayne Bergeron, Brian Ploeger, Bobby Shew - trumpet; Tom Garling, Alex Iles, Reggie Watkins, Bryant Byers - trombone; Jim Self - tuba; Matt Catingub, Mike Dubaniewicz, Gary Foster - alto saxophone; Jim Brenan, Dan Higgins - tenor saxophone; Sal Lozano - baritone saxophone.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.