"Flight of the Foo Birds," written by the late Neal Hefti for the Basie band, opens the set and shows Bill Byan to be a first-rate big band drummer. There are several more salutes to the Count: Sammy Nestico's "How Sweet It Is" with Mike McGrath on muted trumpet, his light and linear "Sweet Georgia Brown," "One O' Clock Jump" with a host of solos, superb dynamics, and pianist Mark Burnell doing the Basie thing, plus the wonderfully familiar "April in Paris."
Don Menza's "Groovin' Hard." originally done for Buddy Rich, lives up to its name and showcases Doug Stone's tenor. The heated "Love For Sale" arrangement is also from Buddy's book.
The engaging voice of Frieda Lee takes us back a few years with "Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere," a Lee Wiley favorite, and the short but sweet " Ten Cents A Dance."
Special guest Randy Sandke, who knows how to make a trumpet sizzle, pays tribute to his predecessors. Dizzy's "Night in Tunisia," is followed by an updated "Struttin' With Some Barbecue" which also has trombonist Bryant Scott adding a touch of hot sauce. "Hello Dolly" has Sandke on trumpet and trumpeter Tony Pons from the band on Satchmo voice. Roy Eldridge's intensity is captured with "Little Jazz Boogie." He bought these and several other interesting charts to the session.
Sandke is heard reminding the audience that it isn't easy to maintain a big band in 2008. It may not be easy but West of State Street / East of Harlem proves that it sure is worthwhile.