Bill O'Connell's Chicago Skyliners Big Band: Play It Again, Sammy

Jack Bowers By

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For those who can't get enough Basie, especially Basie""style charts written by quintessential swingmeister Sammy Nestico, Play It Again, Sammy may be just the ticket. The disc's subtitle is "The Count Basie / Sammy Nestico Years, and much of the material on offer has been recycled from an earlier LP (and later, CD), Basie Straight Ahead, by Chicago""area drummer Bill O'Connell's first""class big band (actually two bands, as tracks 1""6 were recorded in 1997, tracks 7""14 five years earlier sans the Freddie Green""style rhythm guitar that was so integral a part of the Basie ensemble's makeup). O'Connell has added two (unnamed) new charts by Nestico and Rick Hirsch's earnest tribute, "Play It Again, Sammy, to bring the playing time to a more reasonable (but still relatively meager) 49:06. Recording quality in both instances is splendid, with Dave Ivaz's rhythm guitar lending the more recent selections an indefinable magnetism that is lacking in those from '92. Aside from that, O'Connell's ensembles give Nestico his due with taught, always""swinging interpretations that invoke the Basie band's indomitable spirit but never devolve into mere impersonation. On the other hand, there is only so much that one can do with compositions and arrangements that are so closely identified with one of the era's most celebrated big bands, as Nestico's charts assuredly are, and much of what is presented on Play It Again, Sammy is so familiar that the more knowledgeable Basie fan may regard them as bordering on wearisome while those who are not as well""acquainted with the remarkable Basie / Nestico connection may find them thoroughly enjoyable, which they are on their own terms. As we said, O'Connell's Skyliners always play well, and those whose ears and record libraries are capacious enough to accommodate yet another album in the Basie / Nestico tradition should warmly welcome this one.

Contact:Blue Birdland Records, 915 Christa Court, Elk Grove Village, IL 60007; phone 847""352""2455. web site, http://members.aol.com/ChiSkyBB (also available from Kendor, Marina Music and Otter Distributors).

Track Listing: Play It Again, Sammy; Dimensions in Blue; Walk in the Park; Basie?Straight Ahead (accessible version); It?s Oh, So Nice; Lonely Street; Fun Time; The Queen Bee; That Warm Feeling; Switch in Time; Magic Flea; Hay Burner; Ya Gotta Try; Basie?Straight Ahead (professional version) (49:26).

Personnel: Bill O?Connell, leader, drums. The 1997 Band (tracks 1?6) ? Bob Frankich, Ken Partyka, alto sax; Brian Sjoertinga, Kent Lawson, tenor sax; Rick Hirsch, baritone sax; Mark Corey, Edwin Williams, David Gross, trombone; Brad Payne, bass trombone; Kirk Garrison, Terry Connell, Jared Braeme, Jim Peterson, trumpet; Bobby Schiff, piano; Dave Ivaz, guitar; John Elmquist, bass; Will Koch, conductor. The 1992 Band (tracks 7?14) ? Howard Weiss, John Schmitt, alto sax; Kurt Kreimier, Paul Kober, tenor sax; Jim Christopher, baritone sax; Mark Corey, Scotty Fisher, Fritz Hocking, trombone; Bill Curran, bass trombone; Connell, Brad Shermock, Dale Kerner, Dave Ruth, trumpet; Eric Scott, piano; Joe Bonadonna, bass; Jim Short, conductor.

| Record Label: Blue Birdland Records | Style: Big Band


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