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David Berger and the Sultans of Swing: Doin' the Do!

Jack Bowers By

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A generous helping of well-cooked nouveau swing by David Berger's undeniably talented Sultans of Swing that's easy to swallow but doesn't sharpen one's craving for more of the same.

Berger arranged everything except the album's bonus track, Duke Ellington / Mildred Hill's "Birthday Jam," which he transcribed. While the charts are admirable, the music itself is on the whole less than exhilarating, especially the eight vocals (on thirteen tracks), half a dozen by Aria Hendricks, the others by trombonist Wayne Goodman ("Oops, My Bad!") and a trio comprised of Goodman, saxophonist Matt Hong and trumpeter Brian Pareschi ("Exactly Like You"). There are some engaging selections ("Good Queen Bess," "Ya Gotta Live It," for example) but they are counterbalanced by too many others that are no better than pedestrian.

Even so, the Sultans are seasoned pros who play well as a unit and solo capably whenever asked to stand and deliver. Trumpeters Steve Bernstein and Irv Grossman, clarinetist Dan Block, alto Jerry Dodgion and trombonist Noah Bless are splendid on Johnny Hodges—Lunceford—like "Good Queen Bess," Dodgion, Block, Pareschi and trombonist Joel Helleny likewise on Berger's "Ya Gotta Live It." Grossman, by the way, sounds like he's been memorizing pages from the Clark Terry Manual of Jazz Improvisation. Speaking of solos, no less than thirteen of the Sultans have their say on the bouncy "Birthday Jam" (subtitled "Happy Birthday Stompy Jones").

The Sultans of Swing have recorded one other album that we know of, The Harlem Nutcracker, and that one is worth seeking out. As for this one, it has its moments but not nearly enough of them to earn a clear-cut endorsement. If, however, your appetite for big band swing (and big band vocals) is larger than ours, you may find Doin' the Do! altogether pleasing.

Track Listing: Are You Fer It; Makin? Whoopee; Doin? the Do; My Heart Belongs to Daddy; Exacty Like You; Miss Thing; Good Queen Bess; How to Get You Out of My Heart; Do Nothin? Till You Hear from Me; Ya Gotta Live It; Oops, My Bad!; Busy Woman Blues; Birthday Jam (Happy Birthday, Stompy Jones) (58:54).

Personnel: David Berger, conductor, arranger; Jerry Dodgion, Matt Hong, Dan Block, Mark Hynes, Jay Brandford, reeds; Bob Millikan, Brian Pareschi, Irv Grossman, Steve Bernstein, trumpet; Wayne Goodman, Joel Helleny, Noah Bless, trombone; Isaac Ben Ayala, piano; Dennis Irwin, bass; Jimmy Madison, drums; Aria Hendricks, vocals; Wayne Goodman, Matt Hong, Brian Pareschi, vocal trio.

Title: Doin' the Do! | Year Released: 2002 | Record Label: Such Sweet Thunder

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