Why cover some of the best singers ever with relaxed arrangements that don't even try to outshine the originals? "Fly Me to the Moon" without Sinatra, Basie or the Quincy Jones arrangement? And, sticking with the lunar, "Destination Moon" without Nat King Cole or Neal Hefti? There are reasons to give this one a pass.
And yet--it's hard not to like Gerry Costanzo and the amiable Andy Farber Swing Mavens octet. Costanzo has an unpretentious, good-natured voice and the arrangements slyly honor the originals. While campy, modern swing-style bands often miss the right feeling and weaken their cause with unexciting soloists, Farber, from subtle Basie-book quotes to the clever Star Trek reference at the end of "Fly Me to the Moon", shows he understands, enjoys and respects the tradition. And there's isn't a throw-away solo on the album. Barry Pareschi, arranger Andy Farber and Dave Glasser are particular standouts.
To digress a bit, Glasser is an under-rated musician. He has one of today's most immediately recognizable alto-sax styles, more in the lyrical tradition of Benny Carter and Johnny Hodges than the Bird-related sounds of his harder-hitting contemporaries. (If you like him on this album, try Above the Clouds or one of the sessions he did with trumpeter Clark Terry.)
"What Would You Do," is the only unfamiliar tune in the even dozen. The others were all hits for well-known male vocalists as much as 60 years ago. Nat Cole is the most frequent honoree. Costanzo occasionally even suggests him, especially when he nails the little burr Cole sometimes used at the bottom of his range. More often he has his own serviceable sound, in the style of big-band singers from the Swing Era. Winning on American Idol is out of the question, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Most of the tunes, even "Don't Worry 'Bout Me," are done at cheerful medium or up tempos. "I Thought About You" and the concluding "Young at Heart" are romantic exceptions. No track is longer than four minutes leaving the full session under 40, definitely on the light side. In spite of that, I'll recommend this one to admirers of swing and the Great American Song Book. Bring back the 1960s!