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Ever wonder what happened to the many seasoned big-band musicians who vanished along with most of the bands that once defined an era? As it turns out, some of them are still alive and kicking, as one can readily hear on this new album by the aptly named Big Band Alumni Association. Each member of the Association paid his dues with more than one of the well-known bands that inspired an older generation, earning diplomas from such stellar ensembles as those led by Billy May, Woody Herman, Harry James, Freddy Martin, Bob Crosby, Stan Kenton, Glenn Miller, the Dorsey and Elgart brothers, Benny Goodman, Les Brown, Buddy Rich, Ray Anthony, Louie Bellson, Alvino Rey and many others.
On Platinum Swing, the Association revisits the Swing Era with a handful of hits from the period and other songs that embody the same temperament. The sequence seems roughly chronological, starting with Woody Herman's theme, "Woodchopper's Ball," and moving forward to the arrangement of Cole Porter's "Love for Sale" introduced by the Buddy Rich band and a staple from the Count Basie library, Sammy Nestico's gently swaying "Warm Breeze."
Much of the music is danceable, and conductor/arranger Randy Van Horne has, for the most part, emphasized harmony instead of heat, although the temperature does warm up toward the end, starting with "Love for Sale."
Unfortunately, that's the point at which my copy of the disc began to show signs of an imperfection, which became progressively worse through the remainder of the program as the music skipped repeatedly from there on. I trust that was an aberration and that other copies will be problem-free (but I can't vouch for it).
There are three vocals, two by sultry Nancy Osborne ("This Masquerade," "It's So Nice to Have a Man Around the House"), the other by Michael Dees ("Lonely Places"). Even though the ensemble is given prominence, there are a handful of brief but effective passages by unnamed soloists. I think most of the tenor solos are by former Les Brown standout Dave Pell (who's listed in the notes as having played with Herman, Goodman and James but not with Brown's Band of Renown!).
For those who miss the Swing Era, here's a charming time capsule designed for your pleasure by some of those who were there the first time around.
Track Listing: Woodchopper's Ball; Charmaine; So What's New; Say It Isn't So; Rattle and Roll; Lonely Places;
Here We Go Again; Scott's Place; It's So Nice to Have a Man Around the House; Let Yourself Go;
Love for Sale; Warm Breeze; This Masquerade; Puttin' on the Ritz; Closing Theme (56:35).
Personnel: Randy Van Horne, conductor, arranger; George Kenny, Lon Norman, trombone, arranger; John
Setar, Ethmer Roten, alto sax, flute, clarinet; Larry Covelli, tenor sax, clarinet; Ira Schulman, Dave
Pell, tenor, baritone sax; Ron Smith, Jim Amlotte, Barney Liddell, trombone; John Fick, Fred Koyen,
Jack Feierman, Howard "Hotsy" Katz, trumpet; Bill Casilli, piano; Al Vecovo, guitar; George "Geo"
Valle, bass; Johnny Vana, percussion; Nancy Osborne, Michael Dees, vocals.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.