Fans of the swinging big band sounds of yesteryear will rejoice at the John Burnett Swing Orchestra's new recording, West of State Street, East of Harlem, a live recording, documenting the band with special guest trumpeter Randy Sandke performing live at Fitzgerald's in Berwyn last February.
Burnett, your "British-American Buddy," is well known here in the Chicago area as the host of the 6 to 10 a.m. "All Things Jazz" slot on WDCB, but he is also a former Royal Academy of Music student who exudes his love of 1940s big band music by leading his crack 17-piece band with enthusiasm and skill. The players are all talented and committed, and the hard work that they and their leader put in is apparent in their joyous, enthusiastic and well-balanced sound, which recreates the sounds of Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey and Count Basie in a manner that is respectful, but not saccharine.
The band has been whipped into shape by their taskmaster Burnett, while the sound is warm and clear and clean, with great separation. The solos, especially by Sandke and lead tenor player Doug Stone are first-rate and bring a more modern touch to the old school sound. Meanwhile, vocalist Frieda Lee (a mainstay of Burnett's group) brings her classy and sassy voice to two tunes: "Anytime, Anyday, Anywhere" and "Ten Cents a Dance." Other songs on the CD include the Basie band's "Flight of the Foo Birds," and familiar pieces like "One O'Clock Jump," "Witchcraft," "Night in Tunisia," "Groovin' Hard," "Sweet Georgia Brown," "April in Paris," "Love for Sale" and even "Hello Dolly."
A welcome release both for fans of the classic big band era sounds or for those new to the genre from a band and bandleader who are doing their part to keep these great sounds alive in the modern era.
The John Burnett Swing Orchestra now appears every Wed. at Green Dolphin Street!