Say hooray for straight-ahead big band music. Trombonist Scott Whitfield breezed through NYC’s Birdland March 10, 2003 and these are the recorded results. First, the lion’s share of the disc’s nine compositions are uniquely Whitfield’s own. Not trying to plow new fields, Mr. Whitfield plays with a post-swing era 1950s style that is very accessible and pleasant to listen to. A gentle swing pervades this recording, even on the faster, more upbeat pieces. Mr. Whitfield’s trombone style is understated and amiable. His scoring talent is well represented in both his brass and reeds sections, where he is able to weave gold thread from the vibrations of his band.
Mr. Whitfield’s songs are contemporary without being experimental, exploratory without being intrusive. He does sport a single standard, and what a wild one. Whitfield throws all caution to the wind and rearranges Bix Beiderbecke’s "In a Mist." The results are mostly good, but purists are sure to be offended. (As they should be, deal with it!). One-Way Street" and "Mimosa" are fun romps and "The Gift of Love" (one of the disc’s two vocals by Whitfield) has a light bossa personality. Whitfield is a serviceable singer but a better trombonist, to be sure.
After having reviewed a score of contemporary big band albums, it is very much fun to get back to basics and see what swing is all about. That is the experience Live At Birdland provides.