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Max Greger and the RIAS Big Band: Swingtime

Jack Bowers By

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There are times when an album’s title is remarkably descriptive, and this is one of them. This is all about swinging, with Germany’s RIAS Big Band providing the backdrop for guest soloist Max Greger, an Earl Bostic/Tiny Bradshaw/Arnett Cobb–style tenor saxophonist from the “blow hard and blow ’em away” school of straight–from–the–shoulder ad–libs. Although his name appears above the marquee, Greger actually solos on only four numbers, and is abetted along the way by trumpeters Benny Bailey and Till Brönner, tenor saxophonist Walter Gauchel, trombonists Dan Gottschall and John Marshall, clarinetist Norbert Nagel, pianist Wolfgang Köhler, guitarist Ingo Cramer and drummer Holger Nell, among others. The American expatriate Bailey is front and center on five selections (including his features, “Perdido,” “Li’l Darlin’” and “Alexander’s Ragtime Band”), Gauchel on six and Brönner on three. This is for the most part familiar Swing Era fare, and the RIAS ensemble consumes the various entrees with seamless efficiency, as it does the four newer songs — “Hot Seats,” “Festival,” “Nice and Sweet” and “B.P.” Greger is heard on three of the first four tracks (“One O’Clock Jump,” “Night Train,” “Misty”) and doesn’t reappear until track 13 (“Nice and Sweet”). He’s almost upstaged by Gauchel who scores a clean hit every time at bat (including a feisty flute solo on “Nice and Easy”). If there’s a downside it lies in an overabundant use of reverb, noticeable throughout but especially disconcerting on Greger’s solos. But that’s a minor drawback, really, and is easily offset by the quality of the music, which is consistently high–grade. For lovers of big–band swing, a colorful, swing–laden session that accomplishes exactly what it proposes.

Track listing: One O’Clock Jump; Night Train; It Don’t Mean a Thing; Misty; On the Sunny Side of the Street; Hot Seats; Creole Love Call; Perdido; Moten Swing; Festival; Alexander’s Ragtime Band; Li’l Darlin’; Nice and Sweet; B.P.; I’m Getting Sentimental Over You; Just in Time; King Porter Stomp (57:57).

Personnel:

Max Greger, Norbert Nagel, Klaus Marmulla, Walter Gauchel, Gregoire Peters, Rolf von Nordenskj

Title: Swingtime | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: Polydor Records

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