One can debate whether the big bands are "dead"--and a good chunk of this CD's liner notes are devoted to that debate--but one must acknowledge that large ensembles still contribute to today's jazz sound. From Maria Schneider to Dave Holland, Charles Tolliver to the Mingus Big Band, they all play an important part in modern jazz. Mike Vax's big band, on the other hand, is dedicated to the preservation of an earlier sound: that of the forties and fifties, specifically the progressive sounds of Stan Kenton and his ilk. But you won't find any of Kenton's experimental work here, either. This is typically solid, in-the-pocket swing, the stuff big bands played on the road for decades. Kudos to Vax and his crew for maintaining that road ethic through tough economic times. You can hear traces of later Stan here and there--in the brash, bright trumpet ensembles for example--but overall this is safe, dependable and usually fun stuff. However, as is often the case with live multiple-source recordings, this disc suffers from uneven sound. While some tracks come off just fine, others have the horns pushed too far back. And the vocals on "Slow Boat to China" face the same dilemma. Still, lovers of classic big band will enjoy this, and the disc closes with a touching tribute to the late Bob Florence, who plays an extended piano solo on "All the Things You Are."