Bassist Nikos Chatzitsakos' Tiny Big Band, formed in 2018, is basically a nonet with vocalist Lian Zac added on three of the album's eleven tracks, trumpeter Robert Mac Vega-Dowda sitting in on five, vibraphonist Vid Jamnik on four, guitarist Gianmarco Ferri on two. The accent is on straight-ahead contemporary jazz, exemplified by seven standards from the Great American Songbook and a quartet of handsome themes whose jazz credentials are exemplary.
The ensemble plays with assurance and enthusiasm, investing Chatzitsakos' charts (he arranged every number) with an ample supply of intensity. Soloists are similarly engaged, even though one could never pick any of them out of a lineup. Much of the album's charm rests on Chatziksakos' choice of material, which is, by and large, splendid. It is hard to fumble the ball when running with such evergreens as "Taking a Chance on Love," "Tangerine," "You Stepped Out of a Dream," "Willow Weep for Me" or "Tenderly." Zac sings on another gem, Lerner and Loewe's "I've Grown Accustomed to [His] Face," as well as on the opening and closing numbers, Mary Lou Williams' tongue-twisting "In the Land of Oo-Bla-Dee" and Gigi Gryce's alluring "Social Call," on which guitarist Ferri and pianist Marco Birro sparkle.
Chatzitsakos solos only twice, on "Tangerine" and Ray Brown's "Lined with a Groove," being content, for the most part, to anchor the ensemble's dependable rhythm section (Birro and drummer Karol Zabka). Chatzitsakos' heated arrangement of "You Stepped Out of a Dream" is a highlight (crisp solos by Zabka, trumpeter Will Mallard and tenor saxophonist Art Baden), as are "Willow," "Good Morning Heartache" (featuring trombonist Brandon Lin) and "Tenderly," played without pause as a three-part mini-suite. Those who prefer their big bands on the lighter side, with an abundance of colorful give-and-take among the sections, should find much to admire in Chatzitsakos' well constructed ensemble.
In The Land Of Oo-Bla-Dee;
Taking A Chance On Love;
I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face;
You Stepped Out Of A Dream;
Willow Weep For Me;
Good Morning Heartache;
Lined With A Groove;
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