To paraphrase the MGM Studios’ well–known credo from the ’40s, Nagel Heyer must have “more all–stars than there are in heaven.” This particular group merits the designation “international” owing to the inclusion of Swedish vibraphonist Lars Erstrand and (on two tracks) Finnish clarinetist Antti Sarpila. The other members of the group were born under red, white and blue. In any event, all–stars they are, and as usual with Nagel Heyer releases, the album is brimful of swinging, good–natured Jazz that’s not meant to remodel the music but simply to entertain, which it does from first note to last. This cheerful salute to the King of Swing, recorded half a dozen years ago before an enthusiastic audience at the Amerika Haus in Hamburg, Germany, finds everyone in top form including guest artists Sarpila and Allan Vaché who appear on the ballad medley — “Memories of You,” “Poor Butterfly,” “Moonglow” — and blazing three–stick finale, “After You’ve Gone.” Also burning rubber are “Limehouse Blues” (with Ken Peplowski’s red–hot clarinet showing the way) and the breezy opener, ”You.” Peps is on clarinet for that one too, as he is on “Did I Remember” and the closing numbers (he uncases his rawboned tenor on “You Brought a New Kind of Love to Me”). The underrated Erstrand is showcased on “Our Love Is Here to Stay,” smooth guitarist Howard Alden on “Stardust.” The rhythm section (pianist Mark Shane, bassist Len Skeat, drummer Joe Ascione), meanwhile, is as consistent and dependable as the sunrise. Each of the clarinetists snares a piece of the action on the three–part medley, with Sarpila (“Memories of You”) taking the first swing, Vaché (“Poor Butterfly”) on deck and Peplowski (“Moonglow”) batting clean–up. Everyone has a chance to blow on “After You’ve Gone,” and if a three–clarinet front line sounds like overkill, it isn’t, thanks to the prodigious talents of Messrs. Peplowski, Vaché and Sarpila. Another delightful all–star package from Nagel Heyer.
Track Listing: You; Did I Remember; Stardust; You Brought a New Kind of Love to Me; Limehouse Blues; Our Love Is Here to Stay; Medley: Memories of You / Poor Butterfly / Moonglow; After You
Personnel: Ken Peplowski, clarinet, tenor sax; Lars Erstrand, vibes; Howard Alden, guitar; Mark Shane, piano; Len Skeat, bass, Joe Ascione, drums; Antti Sarpila (7, 8), Allan Vach