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Cloning sheep? Small potatoes. Pianist Thilo Wolf has cloned an entire big band! On Swing It!, Volume II his German–based ensemble is practically a mirror image of the late pianist Gene Harris’s SuperBand which recorded three albums in 1987–90 for Concord Records, and Wolf himself sounds so much like the irrepressible Harris that it’s downright spooky. Is that a good thing? On balance, yes; Harris fronted a marvelous all–star band, and so does Wolf. There’s nothing disagreeable about that, nor about the music presented on Swing It!, which is consistently bold and bracing. As Harris did on the first of his three albums, Wolf employs the services of two vocalists, Etta Cameron and Allan Harris, who are featured on seven of the twelve selections. Again, there’s not a great deal of difference between them and Gene Harris’s choices, Ernestine Anderson and Ernie Andrews. Cameron is showcased on “For Once in My Life,” “’S Wonderful” and “Yardbird Suite,” Harris on “Looking at the World Through Rose–Colored Glasses,” “The Girl from Ipanema,” “My One and Only Love” and “On a Clear Day.” The band has the stage to itself in this concert recording only on the first three numbers (“Mr. Grooverix,” Ray Brown’s “Gumbo Hump,” “Swinging Fingers”), Cole Porter’s “It’s All Right with Me” and the blistering finale, “Makin’ Boom Boom,” on which Wolf moves from piano to drums to trade volleys with the ensemble’s resident sharpshooter, sure–handed Wolfgang Haffner. Elsewhere, his assertive piano is the dominant voice, whether soloing or providing a chordal road map for the band. The other soloists are baritone saxophonist Thomas Zoller, trombonist Gerhard Fink and trumpeter Franz Weyerer (“Mr. Grooverix,” which is the name of one of Wolf’s other albums); Haffner and trumpeter Lennart Axelsson (“Gumbo Hump”); tenor saxophonist Axel Kühn (“It’s All Right with Me”); Haffner and trumpeter Felice Civitereale (“Swinging Fingers”). A mixed bag whose instrumental tracks are strong enough to earn a lukewarm endorsement.
I love jazz because it is a pure American music and can be expressed in different ways depending upon the artist.
I was first exposed to jazz while as a teenager I listened to Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, and Louis Armstrong, on a jazz
radio station in New York City.