Bob Wilber & Friends: What Swing is All About...

AAJ Staff By

Sign in to view read count
This is simple stuff, plain and unassuming. Two high horns, with a broad arsenal, trade nimbly over a bright trio. The group was formed for a hotel job in 1984 and plays to this day. The repertoire is expected: old standards and basic originals. The album has no surprises, save one: this old music sounds fresher than a lot of modern bands. This is what swing is all about.

The horns step together on “Smiles”, a parallel theme with plenty of warmth. Wilber shouts high, a clarinet purity on soprano; his former student Antti Sarpila is pure Lester. Pleasant but light; a gentle stroll in the park. It picks up with “Tickle Toe”: Antti is more urgent but still Presidential; Wilber, on clarinet, bends tone and shows grit while staying sweet. The exchanges are tough, Joe Ascione fending off both horns at once. It all works, right down to Basie’s Morse code at the end. The fans agree.

“I Got a Right” brings in Pug Horton, for the first of any vocals. Befitting the tune, she is low and weary, with a charming vibrato. Mark Shane is understated, light rolls and Ellington trills. Wilber takes the straight soprano (less sweet than his curved model); it’s the match to Antti’s clarinet. Pug is brighter on “Nice to Come Home To”; less vibrato and more heat. Her notes stay creamy even down low – not many can say that. Wilber’s solo is busy and happy; Antti’s is almost its equal.

“Basiec Jump” is a fun turn on “Undecided”; Antti stretches a bit with nice sandpaper tone. Shane strides right (he played a Basie tribute at this club a few months later); Wilber has little space, but does he use it! “Indiana” starts at a crawl: Pug muses as the piano flows, as slow as the Wabash River. She stops; the band starts. Antti dances high, while Wilber rolls a bit lower. Ascione gets a soft solo; hear the horns jab behind him. It’s quite a display, and the crowd agrees.

“Feeling I’m Falling” is a gem, a Gershwin tune I wish I knew before this. The clarinets walk together. Wilber keeps to theme, going high with bent notes; Antti likes trills. A lazy day of a song: it may be simple, but always welcome when it comes. Pug comes back for “I’ve Got a Crush on You” (hear Wilber on the lovely verse.) On the final word “you” it becomes “You Do Something to Me” – like that romance becomes passion. Next is “Bernfest ‘96” (named for a festival Wilber played), but don’t be fooled – it’s a classic swinger that could have been written in ’36. The tune is a winner, like the clarinet-tenor blend. There’s little here but the theme, but you don’t need anything else.

“Goody Goody” is a group vocal: besides Pug, you hear Wilber, and maybe some of the crowd. Bob’s high swirling is his best solo; Antti groans a bit with a nice rumpled tone. “Billie’s Bounce” isn’t just Charlie Parker – here it’s a bossa! And it swings. The soprano is slow, some bop moves but without the tension. Antti calls on Lester again, with great results. Shane hammers hard with tremolos: he’s old and modern at once. And “Doggin’ Around” is another “Undecided”, this one from the Count. Wilber is bluesier than normal, with high tumbles. Antti gets tough, quoting “Broadway” and beginning to strut. I like it; the crowd does not disagree. Shane strides again; his best effort. The long ending should be savored – but I could say that for the whole album.

Title: What Swing is All About... | Year Released: 1999


comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read A Night Walking Through Mirrors CD/LP/Track Review A Night Walking Through Mirrors
by Barry Witherden
Published: September 21, 2017
Read Jondo CD/LP/Track Review Jondo
by Jack Bowers
Published: September 21, 2017
Read Jazz Flute Traditions CD/LP/Track Review Jazz Flute Traditions
by Roger Farbey
Published: September 21, 2017
Read Nerve Dance CD/LP/Track Review Nerve Dance
by John Sharpe
Published: September 21, 2017
Read Déjà Vu CD/LP/Track Review Déjà Vu
by Troy Dostert
Published: September 20, 2017
Read Woody Guthrie - The Tribute Concerts CD/LP/Track Review Woody Guthrie - The Tribute Concerts
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: September 20, 2017
Read "One" CD/LP/Track Review One
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: March 31, 2017
Read "Chamber Jazz" CD/LP/Track Review Chamber Jazz
by Dave Wayne
Published: November 19, 2016
Read "Rotterdam 1969" CD/LP/Track Review Rotterdam 1969
by Jack Bowers
Published: October 11, 2016
Read "Déjà Vu" CD/LP/Track Review Déjà Vu
by Troy Dostert
Published: September 20, 2017
Read "As If By Magic" CD/LP/Track Review As If By Magic
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: December 3, 2016
Read "The Long Slog" CD/LP/Track Review The Long Slog
by Dave Wayne
Published: January 11, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.