The sound is much fuller than the lineup suggests because of the arrangements of leader/pianist Henry Francis, who has clearly studied his craft well. As a result, it's difficult to single out individuals for attention, because so much of the group's success is due to the quality of their ensemble play. Obvious points of distinction, though, arise when Carol Akerson approaches the microphone. If the label "girl singer" is dated, the style, as practiced by Ms. Akerson isn't. A fine ballad singer with a knack for scat and vocalese, her contributions on 6 tracks are among the disc's highlights. Bill Novick, who contributes alto solos to eight cuts and a transcendent clarinet on Duke Ellington's "Transblucency," is a regular with the New Black Eagle Jazz Band, a traditional group, and makes a strong contribution here as well.
While the singer and the soloist offer standout performances, this is a disc full of highlights, with songs drawn from such stellar books as Ellington, Basie, Brubeck and Waller. The band, a seasoned group of Boston-area pros, plays dance music well worth simply listening to and earns copious respect for the respect they show for one of the great jazz styles. The disc is available from the band's website, along with booking, schedule and biographical information.