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Summit Records DCD 646



  1. Evidence/Just You, Just Me

  2. Carolina Shout

  3. Heavenly

  4. Happy Blues

  5. Just Friends

  6. You Bluesed Me

  7. Swing Trane

  8. Girl From Ipanema

  9. God Bless The Child

  10. Eleanor's Place

  11. Brusheeze

  12. Let's Get Lost

  13. Softly As In A Morning Sunrise

  14. Boogie Woogie Stomp

  15. Pennies From Heaven

Godelstring Studio/October 25 and 26, 2005 (tracks 5, 11)

Jan Leder, Michele Smith - Flute

Danny Walsh - Soprano sax

Dennis Mitcheltree - Soprano sax, tenor sax

Isao Suzuki, Bob Mover - Alto sax

Lou Caputo - Tenor sax

Justin Mullens, Rich Nichols - Trumpet

Ben Oatmen - Bass trombone

Jack Davis - Trombone

Cecilia Coleman - Piano

Nick Cudahy - Bass

Art Lillard - Drums

Mark McCarron - Guitar

David Picton, Todd Isler - Percussion

Andrea Wolper - Vocals

Systems Two/February 20, 2007 (tracks 4, 6, 10, 13)

Itai Kriss, Jeff Schiller - Flute

Danny Walsh - Soprano sax

Tom Abbott - Alto sax

Paul Carlon - Tenor sax

Sam Hoyt, Pam Fleming - Trumpet

Walt Szymanski - Trumpet, vocals

Noah Bless - Tenor trombone

Jack Jeffers - Bass Trombone

Jon Davis - Piano

Steve Blum - Guitar

Maxim Vater - Bass

Art Lillard, Portinho - Drums

Bobby Sanabria - Percussion

Mary Foster Conklin, Andrea Wolper - Vocals

Nola Studios/June 29, 2011 (tracks 1, 3, 7-9, 12, 15)

Jan Leder, Carol Sudhalter - Flute

Chris Bacas - Soprano sax

Gerald M. Thomas - Alto sax

Jim Clouse, Michael Hashim - Tenor sax

Barry Bryson, Mark McGowan - Trumpet

Jack Jeffers - Bass trombone

Stafford Hunter - Trombone

Ted Kooshian - Piano

Ralph Hamperian - Bass

Art Lillard - Drums

Nick Russo, William Ash - Guitar

Nano Valerio, Todd Isler - Percussion

Andrea Woloper, Pete McGuinness, Hilary Gardner, Dominique Eade - Vocals

Details for tracks 2 and 14 not included in sleeve notes.

If you like old-style big band music, complete with a roster of vocalists, this combination of standards and Art Lillard originals will appeal to you. Recorded on three separate occasions from 2005 through to 2011, with substantial differences of personnel on each date, Art Lillard's Heavenly Big Band has been around since 1987. Art as composer, arranger and drummer has had, therefore, an enduring commitment to this project.

There were several stand-outs for me on the disc. One of these was Heavenly, the band's theme tune written by Lillard himself. The lyrics are delivered well by Hilary Gardner and the accomplished Stafford Hunter can be heard on trombone. The arrangement put me in mind somewhat of Johnny Mandel (not for the only time on this recording). Just Friends has a smooth tenor introduction leading into a dreamy presentation of the theme before Andrea Wolper, the pick of the vocalists, sings the lyrics. It is Wolper who gives Girl From Ipanema a make-over, swinging along nicely in both English and Portuguese. I also especially enjoyed Let's Get Lost where Pete McGuinness takes the main vocal honours (hard, though, to escape the influence of Chet Baker on anyone attempting this song). In addition to McGuinness, there is the lusty tenor of Michael Hashim, lively alto from Gerald M. Thomas and restrained but effective guitar from William Ash. Softly As In A Morning Sunrise has an excellent arrangement and I liked the oblique style of Jon Davis on piano. There are too many quality solos on other tracks to mention here but Lillard's Brusheeze is a prime example of a piece which serves as a showcase for individual talents in the band, not least the leader himself. The one track which I thought missed the mark was God Bless The Child which is almost jaunty and is as far away from the Billie Holiday original as it is possible to get, to its detriment.

All in all, though, this was an entertaining and appealing listening experience, tinged with nostalgia.

James Poore

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