As Three Down is a demo disc for the ETH Big Band, no information is included aside from song titles. So what we know is that the ensemble is from Switzerland, plays 11 selections including a medley of songs associated with Nat King Cole, and gives every one of them the best it has to offer. The guess is that ETH is undoubtedly made up of part–time (amateur) musicians, as the level of play is about what one would expect from a moderately talented high–school ensemble here in the States, but they’re no less fun to listen to because of it. The giveaway, as always, lies with the soloists, none of whom rises above fair–to–middling. But as we said, they are doing the best they know how, and in these days of prepackaged garbage peddled as music, that’s worth at least a couple of points. The ensemble is far from flawless, and doesn’t always swing as hard as one would prefer, but again, the very fact that these young musicians from Switzerland should choose to play songs such as “Lover Come Back to Me,” Sammy Nestico’s “Pressure Cooker,” Benny Golson’s “I Remember Clifford,” Chuck Mangione’s “Feels So Good” and Johnny Mandel’s “Not Really the Blues” (on which the band’s pianist offers the most convincing solo on the album) is in itself heartwarming and impressive. The Cole medley, which consists of half a dozen tunes made popular by Nat, is designed, as are “Every Day I Have the Blues” and “Fever,” to show off the “talents” of the band’s female vocalist. Alas, there’s not much there to uncover, and much of the problem stems from the fact that her accent is so thick she’d have been better off yodeling. When it comes to singing in English, she really hasn’t a clue. On the other hand, she too is doing the best she can, and we applaud her for the effort if nothing else. The ETH Big Band won’t be winning any polls, either here or in Switzerland, but it represents another small victory in the ongoing struggle to keep the spirit of big–band music alive in this world. So bravo, ETH! Keep doing what you’re doing, as that is where the road to peace and contentment lies.
Track listing: Lover Come Back to Me; Every Day I Have the Blues; I Remember Clifford; Pressure Cooker; Reptile; Feels So Good; Get Up and Go; The Mode; Cross Legs; Not Really the Blues; Fever; Nat “King” Cole medley (60:01).