Fellow jazz fans if you're feeling in the mood to shake rattle and roll (to borrow a phrase from rock) or otherwise swing a thing or two, take a listen to 16 Men & A Chick Singer Swingin' from the Pratt Brothers Big Band featuring Roberta Gambarini. What can I say? Trumpeter Dean Pratt and brother, drummer Michael Pratt, have recorded one blistering hot big band CD that sizzles from the get go. Wow! These guys cook the charts to a well done smoking temperature. Not totally burnt however, they do cool down a bit for some of that mellow stuff with four classy vocal numbers performed by Roberta Gambarini,the "Chick Singer" of the band.
Eight years ago the Pratt Brothers Big Band recorded their first major release, Groovy Encounters. The band has returned with an encore performance with 16 Men & A Chick Singer Swingin' recorded in New York, in 2001 and released this year. This is a ten track CD of standards and original compositions with arrangements by Ernie Wilkins, Rich Shemaria, Wayne Coniglio, Michael Abene and Don Piestrup.
As big bands go, this sixteen piece group of musicians is one of the best. The music is contemporary modern big band jazz in a fast and furious style with moments of soft and mellow tempo sounds that highlight the seductive voice of Gambarini. Dean Pratt describes Gambarini as "The Real voice of an Angel" and to this I certainly agree. Her beautiful and soothing voice on Hoagy Carmichael's "Skylark" and on the fourth track, "Cup of Life," is a testament to a wonderful jazz singer who can reach the high notes with ease and seems at home in the big band setting.
There are five tracks of the swinging big band sound that really define the music on this album. They are "Big Bad Bassie," "Waterjug," "Falling In Love with Love," "Where Your Lover Has Gone," and of course "Sixteen Men Swinging". All of these tunes have one special element in common -a lot of brass! The band has a woodwind section that's top notch. Burning solos on the saxes, trumpets, trombone and flute are played throughout these cuts.
I fell in love with "Falling In Love With Love," one of the best cuts on this CD and right out of the Pratt brother's dance book that was almost not recorded. It's an upbeat catchy tune that I hear over and over again. "When Your Lover Has Gone" was a tune written for the Buddy Rich Orchestra but never recorded until now. This is another piece of music that is full of fire and played with fury. There are definite shades of Buddy on this one. This album starts out swinging with the cut "Big Bad Bassie" and has some fine piano work by Ronnie Mathews, a taste of Michael Pratt's drumming musicianship and then is taken over by the rest of the band featuring a chorus of saxes.
The last track on this CD is another one of my favorite pieces. A powerful hot number and the band's signature cut, "Sixteen Men Swinging" is appropriately named because that's exactly what it is. The music is fast paced from beginning to end. I'm almost certin that the band played this number standing up and moving from side to side. A real swinging foot stomping tune that is one heck of a way to finish.
Spicy, loud, smooth and heart stopping hard core jazz, this CD contains it all. I tip my hat to Dean and Michael Pratt. The Pratt Brothers Big Band has provided one memorable piece of music deserving of Grammy consideration. A big band recording that will please your musical taste buds yet make you hungry for more at the same time. An enjoyable album from top to bottom.
If you pick up 16 Men & A Chick Singer Swingin', you must read the liner notes from Dean Pratt. Dean writes a virtual declaration of disgust about the music business executives, managers, producers and I guess the industry in general that don't have a clue about music, yet wield misguided power within the industry. The "Emperor's Lack of Clothes" is an eye openning and disturbing writing, especially if true.