Tommy Newsom displays his gift for lighter-than-air string arrangements on the three tracks that open the album. (Braff's previous Arbors CD with strings, "In the Wee, Small Hours," produced what is for me THE version of "White Christmas.") The swinging "Moments Like This" showcases the rhythm section with a fine solo and definitive rhythm guitar by Bucky Pizzarelli.
Except for the closing quartet medley, the remaining tracks feature big bands ranging from 14 pieces to a tentet. Braff's writing is light and tight, the bands are very much together, and don't worry, solo space abounds. With soloists like Davern, Masso, Robinson and Newsom there had better be room! "Crazy Rhythm " is combined with Basie's "Broadway" and there is a delightful "Jumpin' at the Woodside" where Bill Charlap, who plays more notes than Basie, suggests that other Bill by his light touch and occasional bass lick. (It's worthwhile to give this CD a spin while just listening to Charlap's contributions. He's a master.)
This is truly Braff's album. Whether he's soaring over the strings or the big band, caressing a melody or swinging away, he is always melodic and instantly recognizable with that edgy low register sound. Dan Morgenstern, Director of the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers, calls Braff's performance a masterpiece. He's right.