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File this one under: Swingin' NYC Big Band! Drummer, bandleader and composer Art Lillard has been leading versions of this organization over the past nineteen years and has produced in Reasons To Be Thankful an upbeat and impressive album that exposes several talented and underappreciated musicians in the Big Apple. The thirteen selections are all Lillard originals, save for one by guitarist Mark McCarron, who also contributes several fine guitar solos throughout the album.
Lillard also shows a good sense of balance by including several vocals throughout the course of this session, thus providing a well-rounded presentation. They include a nice job by jazz cabaret singer Mary Foster Conkllin on the Latinized "Nonchalant" and especially the Jon Hendricks-inspired work of Miles Griffith on two tracks. His vocal on "Swingin' The Blues Away," combined with Bob Mover's alto solo, is one of the album's highlights.
Lillard's sense of dynamics emerges with the opening "Bluez Organ Man," which has an overlay of Caribbean percussion. Altoist Bob Mover, whom I haven't heard from in decades, provides a solid contribtion on "The Fast Track," as does tenorist David Peterson on "Conclusion Jump." Lillard also gets some noted guest participation from pianists Mike Longo and Arturo O'Farrill.
Track Listing: Bluez Organ Man; The Fast Track; Swingin
Personnel: Art Lillard: drums, leader; Jan Leder, Jeff Schiller, Mauricio Smith, Jay Collins: flute; Kyle Whelan: soprano saxophone; David Valdez: alto saxophone; David Peterson: tenor saxophone; Justin Mullens, Erik Jekabson: trumpet; Michael Boschen, Phil Arnold: trombone; Mark McCarron: guitar; Mike Longo, Arturo O
As a songwriter and vocalist, I love jazz for the experience of being in the center of intense creativity. It is the most potent form of music for keeping the artist and the audience in the 'now. Being in the moment is essential for humans, and we need help in learning how to do that. As a songwriter, I need the depth of musicality that jazz voicings can give my stories. My songs seem light and whimsical, but the message is not.
I met my main collaborator, Mark Fitzgibbon, at one of his gigs. I needed to do my first original album, and his playing was masterful, robust, and beautiful. At the time, I didn't realize how suited we were as a team. We're onto our 4rth album together.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to a really clear and simple version of a song so you can then hear what the musicians are doing and enjoy their creativity and musicality. Also, you have to see jazz live to appreciate it fully. You'll never feel it the same way listening to a CD or online. You need the vibration to go through your body to really get it!
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