Although The Bat Swings! could well be taken for a baseball analogy, the focus of this third CD by the University of Central Florida's high-powered Flying Horse Big Band is on music associated with the campy Batman TV series from the late 1960s that starred Adam West as the masked superhero and Burt Ward as his sidekick, Robin. The album embodies themes by the celebrated composers Nelson Riddle, Neal Hefti and Paul Francis Webster with arrangements by Michael Philip Mossman, Harry Allen and FHBB director Jeff Rupert (two each), Mark Taylor and UCF faculty member Per Danielsson. Mossman also arranged the five concise (four-second or less) "Bat-Spins" that separate a number of tracks.
In spite of the inescapable variations in technique and tempo, the one constant is swing as the arrangers splice together essential themes and incidental music from the series to sparkle in a big-band format and the ensemble digs in hard to make it happen. The session is all Batman all the way save for Rupert's walking arrangement of the "Spider-Man Theme" and the gospel-leaning finale, "Amazing Grace," dedicated to frequent UCF guest artist and acclaimed multi-instrumentalist Ira Sullivan. Speaking of guest artists, the band welcomes four of them but only one, organist Richard Drexler, solos (on "Spider-Man" and "Amazing Grace"). The others are trumpeter Justin Diaz, percussionist Jeff Moore and vibraphonist / percussionist Marty Morell.
The album opens with Mossman's sassy "Batmobile to Airport" and continues apace with "Batman Riddles the Riddler" and the easygoing "Batman Blues" before digressing to "Spider-Man." The colorful, time-shifting "Kitka" salutes Batman's nemesis / love interest Catwoman, the mid-tempo "Holy-Hole-in-the-Doughnut" Robin's off-the-wall declamations such as "holy flypaper" and "leaping lumbago." Mossman appends an Afro-Cuban luster to "Murcielago en la Cueva" (A Bat in the Cave) before "Amazing Grace" and guitarist Ryan Waszmer ring down the curtain. There are other enticing solos along the way by Waszmer, alto saxophonist Dylan Young, tenors Andy Garcia and Dylan Hannon, trombonist Christian Herrera, trumpeter Aidan Lakshman, pianist Mudel Honore and especially baritone Saul Dautsch ("Airport," "Batman Blues").
While it may not quite keep pace with the swagger or bombast of its iconic namesake, The Bat Swings! does what it set out to do, which is to swing with the sort of POW! that Batman (and Robin) would have applauded.
Batmobile to Airport; Bat-Spin; Batman Riddles the Riddler; Bat-Spin; Batman Blues; Spider-Man Theme; Bat-Spin; Kitka; Bat-Spin; Holy-Hole-in-the-Doughnut; Bat-Spin; Murcielago en la Cueva (featuring Batman Theme); Amazing Grace (for Ira Sullivan).
Jeff Rupert: director; Courtland Beyer: trumpet; Taylor Grubbs: trumpet; Aidan Lakshman: trumpet; Marco Rivera: trumpet; Kristian Rey: alto sax, flute; Dylan Young: alto sax; Andy Garcia: tenor sax; Dylan Hannan: tenor sax; Saul Dautch: baritone sax; Matt Kerr: trombone; Christian Herrera: trombone; Brian Morris: trombone; Juwan Murphy: trombone; Mudel Honore: piano, Hammond organ; Ryan Waszmer: guitar; Luther Burke: acoustic, electric bass; Gus D’Angelo: drums. Special Guests – Justin Diaz: trumpet; Richard Drexler: Hammond organ (6, 13); Jeff Moore: bongos (1, 12); Marty Morell: vibraphone (1, 12), congas (3), shaker (10).