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Reasons to be Thankful, the second recording from Art Lillard's Heavenly Band since 1995, offers a toe-tapping, fun big band swing time experience. The Heavenly Big Band, a fixture amd mainstay of the New York jazz scene since 1987, is the brainchild of drummer/composer and band leader Art Lillard. Unlike most big band recordings, this album features all original compositions and arrangements in styles ranging from bebop to blues, Latin jazz, a sprinkle of mainstream big band, and a good dose of the modern swing dance music of today.
For this project, Lillard brings together seventeen top notch musicians, including pianist Arturo O'Farrill, Music Director of Lincoln Center's Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, Mike Longo of Dizzy Gillespie's band, Bob Mover, and other sidemen from the Mingus and Chet Baker bands. Six cuts also feature vocals from four singers.
Except for the spunky big band tune "The Fast Track," written by guitarist Mark McCarron, all thirteen pieces were composed by Lillard. The six with vocals include the danceable "Nonchalant," the Latin jazz piece "Incognito," the very bluesy "You Can't Win The Blues," the obvious swinging number "Swingin' the Blues Away," and the beautiful, warm Latin-style "Dreamscape/Perfect World."
On the instrumental side of things, the album is full of first-rate big band cuts, like "Bluez Organ Man," a loud Latin-tinged opener featuring many individual solo performances. "Justice Waiting," "Heavenly," "Biznes Changes," "Finding Our Own Way" and the title track round out the big band sound played from the mainstream in a bebop groove.
Reasons to be Thankful is a recording of fresh original material with wonderful orchestration and a unique way of blending the swing fad and the modern big band sound in one setting. This album merits many reasons to be thankful, which lovers of the big band sound will recognize.
Track Listing: Bluez Organ Man; The Fast Track; Swingin' The Blues Away; Justice Waiting; Conclusion Jump; Heavenly; Nonchalant; Incognito; Biznes Changes; Finding Our Own Way; You Can't Win The Blues; Dreamscape/Perfect World; Reasons to be Thankful.
Personnel: Art Lillard: drums; Jan Leder, Jeff Schiller, Mauricio Smith, Jay Collins: flute; Kyle Whelen:
soprano saxophone; David Valdez, Bob Mover: alto saxophone; David Peterson: tenor
saxophone; Michael Boschen, Phil Arnold: trombone; Justin Mullens, Erik Jekabson: trumpet;
Mark McCarron: guitar; Mike Longo, Arturo O'Farrill: piano; Sean Smith, George Mitchell:
bass; Mary Foster Conklin, Cleve Douglas, Miles Griffith and Brook Lillard: vocals.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.