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 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.