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JC Hopkins Biggish Band: New York Moment

Chris M. Slawecki By

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JC Hopkins Biggish Band: New York Moment
On New York Moment, pianist JC Hopkins and his twelve-piece Biggish Band tend to a flame that's been burning since prior to World War II, the sound of large dance bands (with and without vocalists) who moved audiences with both sophistication and swing. Hopkins' Moment rotates Vanisha-Arleen Gould, Joy Hanson, Nico Sarbanes (who also plays trumpet), Shawn Whitehorn and Alicyn Yaffee (guitar) as lead vocalists.

The opening track leaves you genuinely "Beguiled" as vocalists Nico and Joy harmonize through the verses and the nostalgic sound of Hopkins' ensemble immediately transports you back more than half a century in time, to the optimistic halcyon sound of the swing and bop eras. It all creates the alluring feel of nightclub cabaret.

Alto saxophonist Julian Priestly leads the ensemble as they sing through this big band blowout of Charles Mingus' monumental "Better Git It in Your Soul" like a church gospel choir. Priestly exercises (exorcizes?) his alto with passionate testimony, while pianist Hopkins and drummer Evan Hyde rock the chords and the beat behind him. This rowdy and freewheeling, fearless version, easily the most powerful and exciting jazz captured in this Moment, most likely would have pleased its composer too.

"The Children Will Lead Us" walks this set out with a gritty and funky big band blues stomp. Drummer Hyde bumps and thumps the fat and heavy beat that turned into rock 'n' roll someplace on the road from New Orleans to Memphis, while Alicyn Yaffee's blues guitar keeps the T-Bone Walker sound swinging and her vocal phrasing captures the indescribable intricacy of a salacious, bump-and-grind blues.

Hopkins' previous release also captured a musically historic New York Moment: His ambitious Meet Me at Minton's (2017, Self-Produced), with vocal guests including Jon Hendricks and Andy Bey, was designed to honor both the resurrected nightspot (where Hopkins' band maintains a weekly residency on Saturday night) and the jazz, blues and jump music for which Minton's provided an early foothold in 1940s Harlem.

Track Listing

Beguiled; One of Those Days; The Wonderful Things to Come; We Can Change the World; Oh, Kitty!; Better Git It in Your Soul; Sublime Beauty; What Would You Say?; Lulu; Close Your Eyes; The Children Will Lead Us.

Personnel

JC Hopkins Biggish Band: band/orchestra; JC Hopkins: piano; Walter Cano: trumpet; Kaisa Mäensivu: bass; Julian Pressley: saxophone, alto; Alicyn Yaffee: multi-instrumentalist; Jesse Gelber: piano; Drew Vandewinckel: saxophone, tenor; Evan Hyde : drums; Beserat Taffesse: trombone.

Additional Instrumentation

Vanisha Gould: vocals; Joy Hanson: vocals; Jason Marshall: baritone sax; Nico Sarbanes: vocals; Shawn Whitehorn: vocals; Wignall Ismel: percussion.

Album information

Title: New York Moment | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Self Produced

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