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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, James Poore, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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EYAL VILNER BIG BAND

Almost Sunrise

GUT STRING RECORDS
GSR 019

 

 

The Rabbit

Stablemates

It Donít Mean a Thing

Lush Life

It Be Feeling Like the Blues

Straighten Up and Fly Right

The Gypsy

The District of the Blues

Itís All Right with Me

Centerpiece

Tee Pee Time

Almost Sunrise

Centerpiece (bonus track)


Eyal Vilner: composer, arranger, conductor, alto sax, flute; Bryan Davis: trumpet, flugelhorn; Greg Gisbert: trumpet, flugelhorn; Matt Jodrell: trumpet, flugelhorn; Wayne Tucker: trumpet, flugelhorn; Dan Block: alto, soprano sax, clarinet, flute; Andrew Gould: alto sax, flute; Asaf Yuria: tenor sax; Lucas Pino: tenor sax, clarinet, flute, bass clarinet; Eden Bareket: baritone sax, clarinet; John Mosca: trombone; Nick Finzer: trombone; Max Seigel: bass trombone; Tadataka Unno: piano; Jennifer Vincent: bass; Joe Strasser: drums; Charenee Wade: vocals (3, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10); Nadia Washington: vocals (6, 10); Charles Turner: vocals (6, 9, 10)

Recorded June 2014, Brooklyn, NYC [61:40]


The ethos here is the classic swing sound as purveyed by Israeli-born altoist and flautist Eyal Vilner and his Big Band of seasoned New York players. The results are bright and punchy with efficient soloists, all noted in the gatefold notes. All the arrangements are by Vilner. A strong component of the bandís corporate sound is a stirring vitality shown in the wailing saxophone solos on Benny Golsonís Stablemates where energy rubs shoulders with a sense of the inchoate, if only from time to time. The repertoire draws on bop as well as earlier models such as It Donít Mean A Thing, heard in a straight-ahead arrangement with a solo from the leader himself. Lush Life is largely a vocal remit for Charenee Wade, one of the three singers.

The blues features briefly but is a focal point in It Be Feeling Like the Blues where Vilner takes a good alto solo and Tadataka Unno impresses at the piano stool. Straighten Up and Fly Right is a bit of a populist sop though, and Wade sounds in too high a register for comfort and gives in to too many invitations to unveil her Ella-like scat choruses. She sings on six of the thirteen tracks, often showing a marked preference toward sometimes awkward-sounding upward glissandi Ė sample The Gypsy for this trait. The District of the Blues is given a Kansas City workover, to good effect. All three vocalists - Nadia Washington and Charles Turner joining Wade Ė are heard in two tracks and they make for a good trio or on one occasion duo partnership. The main impression however is of solid swinging with Clark Terryís Tee Pee Time standing for the bandís (vocal-less) virtues - punchy brass and good drumming included. Thereís a fine, rather wistful ballad cum tone poem from Vilner called Almost Sunrise which made me rather wish heíd given us more of this kind of thing, and rather less of the more obvious crowd-pleasers. The reprise of Centerpiece is a band intro affair and shows individual and corporate strength.

This is a tricky one to sum up. I liked much of it, but could have done without the vocals and would have liked more ballads and originals.

Jonathan Woolf



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