Lillard is a tasty drummer who has led the innovative big band, Art Lillard's Heavenly Band (also recorded on Summit), in the New York area since 1987. On this CD he presents his swinging "On Time Band" quartet, including bassist Marco Panascia - with a big sound and an innate sense of time, Jon Davis - a versatile and inventive pianist, and Danny Walsh - eloquent on soprano, alto and tenor. The group is rhythmic and very much together, respecting the melody as it becomes their platform for improvisation.
Lillard's five tunes include the opening "If I Can ," a lightly-swinging ballad, and "Eleanor's Place" which appears to be somewhere in the Caribbean. You may find yourself dancing to both! In contrast is the intensely emotional (tongue-in-cheek titled?) "Ta-Dee, Ta-Dum." Pianist Davis contributes a hard-driving "One Up Front" which give each of the four an opportunity in that position.
Lillard and Davis share the standards charts as they interpret the works of a wide range of writers: Stevie Wonder, Ellington, Mancini, Sigmund Romberg, Frank Loesser, Mingus, Lennon/McCartney, Jule Styne and Irving Gordon. Gordon is represented by a slow and sensitive arrangement of his unforgettable "Unforgettable." (He is also known for writing the Abbott and Costello "Who's On First" routine!) The Beatles' "She's Leaving Home" is hymnlike. Lots of intensity by Walsh on soprano with Duke's "In a Sentimental Mood" while "If I were a Bell" provides room for pianist Davis to shine. The group's approach to Mingus' "Goodbye Porkpie Hat" is a treat. Maybe you've wondered how the Romburg chestnut, "Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise" became a jazz standard but when you hear Walsh and Davis flying high over propulsive bass and drums you'll know. You will.
Again, there's something new for you every time you listen to It's Time. Enjoy!