The sight and sound of one of the classic big bands in full flight must have been something to behold. For those fans of big band jazz who never got to experience such a thing, as well as for those who did and remember it fondly, Andy Farber And His Orchestra bring the sound back with a bang on This Could Be The Start Of Something Big.
Saxophonist Farber arranged and conducted all of the tunes, as well as writing four numbers. As a former member of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and Musical Director, arranger or conductor for Jon Hendricks, Joe Lovano, Shirley Horn and B.B. King, to name just a few, Farber's credentials for this project are strong. He takes what drummer Alvester Garnett, who wrote the liner notes, terms an "Ellingtonian aesthetic" of writing for specific players, while emphasizing the ensemble rather than soloists. The approach works superbly herethe soloists are impressive, but it's the sound of the full 18-piece band that really leaves a lasting, positive, impression.
It says much about Farber's writing and arranging skills that his own compositions sit happily alongside those of George Gershwin or Lionel Hampton. "Short Yarn" is a smooth, Latin-tinged, danceable, number with a mellow clarinet solo from Dan Block. "Bombers"named for one of the baseball teams formed by members of the Count Basie bandhas a feel-good swing of which Basie would be proud, while "Space Suit" is more obviously informed by Duke Ellington's approach.
Farber arranges George and Ira Gershwin's "The Man I Love" as an up-tempo, swinging, showstopper of a tune: Block, Farber and tenor saxophonist Marc Phaneuf each contribute classy, driving, solos. Hampton's "Jack the Bellboy" roars out of the speakers, the band in full flight from start to finish. Farber gives Mel Brooks' "High Anxiety" a Broadway treatment, with Garnett's gently swinging drums and Kenny Ascher's cool piano setting up Kenny Rampton's trumpet solo.
Hendricks guests on Steve Allen's "This Could be the Start of Something Big"bringing back memories of Hendricks' version on Recorded In Person At The Trident (Smash Records, 1963)and Pete Johnson's "Roll 'em Pete." His voice may lack the precision of yesteryear but his enthusiasm and swing remain undiminished.
This Could Be The Start Of Something Big doesn't steer the big band into any new territory, but it certainly emphasizes its vitality and relevance. Farber's Orchestra swings like a big band should, whether playing standards or interpreting Farber's originals. It's a terrific ensemble, with a strong and engaging sound.
Bombers; Space Suit; Body and Soul; This Could be the Start of Something Big; It Is What It Is; Broadway; Roll 'em Pete; Midnight, the Stars and You; 52nd Street Theme; Short Yarn; The Man I Love; High Anxiety; Jack the Bellboy; Seems Like Old Times.
Andy Farber: alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone, flute; Chuck Wilson: alto saxophone; Jay Brandford: alto saxophone; Dan Block: tenor saxophone, clarinet; Marc Phaneuf: tenor saxophone; Kurt Bacher: baritone saxophone; Brian Paresi; Bob Grillo: guitar; Kenny Ascher: piano; Jennifer Vincent: bass; Alvester Garnett: drums; Mark Sherman: vibraphone (8); Jon Hendricks: vocals (4, 7); John Hendricks & Co Singers (4, 7): Aria Hendricks, Kevin Fitzgerald Burke; Jerry Dodgion: alto saxophone (6).
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