Whoever said big bands were dead obviously have never heard of Nancie Banks and her orchestra. First things first. The sound on this CD is awesome. Depth, attack, vibrant, with a beautiful sound stage, this recording owes a lot to veteran engineer Rudy Van Gelder for the fantastic sound.
The band cooks like crazy. The opening number, Walter Bishop JR's Those Who Chant is a smoker from start to finish. Beginning with some sax work with nice brush and cymbals in the background, the piece builds to a swinging Latinesque crescendo. Horns playing in unison, with fine support from the rest of the band sets the pace for what to expect down the road. This ten minute plus opus features Jack Jeffers Tuba, along with the fine trumpet player Kenny Rampton. Also featured in this number are Alexander McCabe on Alto sax, Mitch Frohman on Tenor sax, and Michael Max Flemings bass.
When you think of female big band arrangers, the first person that comes to mind is Toshiko Akyoshi. Nancie Banks is an excellent arranger as well. Tommy Priester's surrentine and Julian Priester's composition, Long As You're Living illustrates the beautiful integration that Nancie works into this arrangement, for voice and orchestra. She adds subtle yet effective instrumental lines throughout that allow the piece to breath and engage the listener. It's a pleasure to hear Nancie's whimsical vocals. Since her last recording (Waves of Peace), her voice has matured considerably. Phrasing and warmth being two areas where she has developed. Adds a nice touch to this piece. This track along with Bert's Blues are definitely one of the highlights.
When trumpet giant Woody Shaw passed away in 1989, he left a legacy of great compositions. Moontrane probably one of his most famous is featured on this recording. Trumpet player Cecil Bridgewater wrote the arrangement. This is a crisp and moving version that swings like crazy. Featuring Patience Higgins in a melodic solo that builds with every chorus a la Illinois Jacquet into a tour de force that is supported by the brass section. James Zollar takes over with some cutting trumpet work that exemplified Woody's way in which he would work the note to maximum effect. Woody would be proud of this rendition.
Jon Hendricks composition Fas' Livin' Blues features a mournful trombone from Clarence Banks playing over a blues foundation, that also features Nancie on some upbeat vocals. Handling the pace beautifully, Nancie's vocal inflections along the way make this number a solid choice. Frank Foster arranged this number.
This is such an enjoyable and upbeat recording. Highly recommended to those of you who love arrangements that sing and flow, plus a band that really delivers. Nancie has done an excellent job on both counts. This is one person with a bright future. Looking forward to future recordings from Nancie and her Orchestra.