Jerry Drake: A Tribute To The Big Bands, Songs From My Heart & Latin Latitudes

Jack Bowers By

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Three albums by New York-based—are you ready— composer/arranger/trumpeter/trombonist/pianist/vocalist Jerry Drake. If you're thinking it looks like Drake's a one-man band, it only appears that way. There's a full ensemble—the Front Page Big Band—backing him, but he's definitely the top gun, singing and/or soloing on every number.

All three albums, it has to be said, would comfortably fit together on a single CD with room and to spare.

Jerry Drake And The Front Page Big Band
A Tribute To The Big Bands
Self Published

The first of the three albums—and the briefest at 18:29—is A Tribute To The Big Bands. It doesn't include any familiar themes from the big band era but consists rather of five original compositions by Drake which are meant to evoke the spirit of that fondly remembered time. Drake sings on every one, but to be honest, his voice seems more suited to talking than singing, sort of like Bert Parks warbling "There she is, Miss America... A nice change of pace, but one always sensed that Bert was far more comfortable as an emcee. Drake's songs are on the same plane, suitable for intimate nightspots or neighborhood parties, but hardly ready for prime time or the Palace.

Jerry Drake And The Front Page Big Band
Songs From My Heart
Self Published

On Songs From My Heart, Drake recalls people and events that have touched his life (vacations, father/son and boy/girl relationships, loved ones who've departed), closing with a trilogy dedicated to Vietnam ("The Boy Who Missed Christmas Day,") 9/11 ("To Be A Fireman ) and World War II ("The Greatest Generation. ) The best that can be said for Drake's lyrics is that they get the point across and often rhyme—more like commentary set to music than bona fide songs. He sings on every track, sometimes accompanied by a chorus. There are no instrumental solos, nor is the band's personnel listed.

Jerry Drake And The Front Page Big Band
Latin Latitudes
Self Published

As its title implies, the last of these albums is devoted to music from south of the border, written and arranged by Drake. The rhythms run the gamut from samba, cha cha and merengue to bolero, bossa and calypso. Again, Drake sings on every number, and solos on all but one. And again, the lyrics are serviceable but no more than that. Drake's vocals might best be described as sincere.

If you're having a party (and have some space), the Front Page Big Band may be the kind of group you'd choose to entertain your guests. If you're looking for jazz or even classic big band sounds, look elsewhere.

Tracks and Personnel

A Tribute To The Big Bands

Tracks: Doin' The Savoy; Just Once In A While; Do You Remember?; Distant Lights; The New Boogie Woogie.

Personnel: Jerry Drake: leader, trumpet, trombone, organ, piano, vocals; Jay Hagen, Jim Colarusso, Joe Capadicasa: trumpet; Lou Caputo, Don Payne: alto sax; John Ruta, Arthur Miller: tenor sax; Rudy Williams: baritone sax; Frank Padulla, Michael Oluert, Irwin Karan, Tom Atherton: trombone; John Miller: piano; Ed Rossi: guitar; Esdras Lubin: bass; Percy Brice: drums.

Songs From My Heart

Tracks: Island Breeze; Googie And Scogie; Oh Girl!; Lights Across The Sky; Trilogy: The Boy Who Missed Christmas; To Be A Fireman; The Greatest Generation.

Personnel: No personnel listed.

Latin Latitudes

Tracks: Samba Dance; Cha Cha School; Dr. Merengue; Fantasy Bolero; About The Bossa Nova; It's Calypso, It's Such A Show.

Personnel: Jerry Drake: leader, trumpet, trombone, organ, piano, vocals; Jay Hagen, Guido Gonzales: Donna Rossi: trumpet; Don Payne: alto sax; Arthur Miller: tenor sax; Bobby Nelson: baritone sax; Frank Padulla, Irwin KAran, Tom Atherton, Wayne Johnson: trombone; Bruce Gordon: bass; Percy Brice: drums.


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