The George Gee Swing Orchestra swings in the manner of Gee's friend and mentor, Count Basie, albeit on a somewhat smaller scale (Gee's group numbers only eleven, and that includes vocalists Hilary Gardner and John Dokes). Even so, the Basie spirit is ever-present, and if Swing Makes You Happy, Gee's eighth album as leader (and first for Rondette Records) should put a smile on your face and a spring in your step. Thanks to resourceful charts by trombonist / music director David Gibson, the ensemble generates a larger-than-expected sound while swinging its way through nineteen buoyant numbers, four associated with Basie and three others transcribed by Gibson from the legendary drummer / bandleader Chick Webb's library.
Rising star Gardner is heard on "Sweet Pumpkin," "No Moon at All," "That's No Joke" and "You Know You Care," baritone Dokes on the Joe Williams evergreen, "I'd Rather Drink Muddy Water," "Baby Won't You Please Come Home," "Nature Boy" and "Evenin,'" and he and Gardner join forces for a charming duet on Frank Loesser's "If I Were a Bell," from the musical Guys and Dolls. The remainder of the album is instrumental, starting with the first two of Gibson's five originals, "Comin' Home" and "Bedrock." Gibson also wrote the frisky "I Knows" (showcasing pianist Steve Einerson), the impulsive "Road to Roscoe's" and Basie-inspired "Hash Mash."
Gibson's transcriptions include "Lindy Hopper's Delight," "Midnight in a Madhouse" and "Blue Minor," each of which takes the listener back to the early '30s when swing undeniably was king. The ensemble nails each one, making Gee's choice of musicians who share his irrepressible point of view level-headed and readily apparent. Whether paraphrasing Chick Webb or Herbie Hancock ("A Tribute to Someone"), the band invariably puts its best foot forward. That applies to the soloists as well, who, besides Einerson and Gibson, include trumpeters Andy Gravish and Freddie Hendrix, alto Eddie Pazant, tenor Michael Hashim and baritone Tony Lustig. In sum, the solos are as impressive as one would envision from a blue-chip swing band. Bassist Marcus McLaurine and drummer Willard Dyson round out the muscular rhythm section.
George Gee has been leading a band (make that several bands) for more than three decades, and through those years his enthusiasm and point of have never wavered. He truly believes that Swing Makes You Happy! Weighing the performance of his latest ensemble, it's a belief that must be contagious.
Comin’ Home; Bedrock; Lindyhoppers’ Delight; Sweet Pumpkin; No Moon at All; I Knows; I’d Rather Drink Muddy Water; Baby Won’t You Please Come Home; Midnight in a Madhouse; The Road to Roscoe’s; If I Were a Bell; It Was a Very Good Year; That’s No Joke; You Say You Care; Hash Mash; Nature Boy; Evenin’; A Tribute to Someone; Blue Minor.
George Gee: leader; David Gibson: music director, composer, arranger, trombone; Andy Gravish: trumpet; Freddie Hendrix: trumpet; Ed Pazant: alto sax; Michael Hashim: tenor sax; Anthony Lustig: baritone sax; Steve Einerson: piano; Marcus McLaurine: bass; Willard Dyson: drums; Hilary Gardner: vocals; John Dokes: vocals.
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