Who can argue the wonders of a seventeen piece big band swinging to the music of mostly Frank Foster? There is exuberance, polish, style and charm to this music. As Frank Foster writes in the liner notes: "It was infectious back in 1941 and it’s still infectious today in the 21st Century. No matter what takes place in the field of music, happy swing like that generated by the Basie Band of the ‘40s will always get through to intelligent listeners and folks with happy feet." Foster, originally a tenor saxophone player, led the Basie Band for a decade beginning in the 1980s. Foster also wrote several large-scale compositions, including ‘Settin’ the Pace’, ‘Ready Now that You Are GG’, ‘Bass in Yo’Face’, and arranged all the compositions that appear on this compact disc.
Certainly, ‘Settin’ the Pace’ has that swing sensation of the early 1940s. It is front and center. It shakes, it moves. It’s like a railroad blasting through your living room. Dedicated to George Gee, the band’s leader, ‘Ready Now that You Are GG’ is another scorcher, but not as quite as forceful or memorable. Foster’s ‘Bass in Yo’Face’ is a real treat in that it, naturally, features bassist Daryl Hall; it feels sassy and appropriately haughty.
Ellington’s ‘In a Sentimental Mood’ is a brilliant arrangement. You can almost see two ardent lovers dancing cheek-to-cheek on a deserted dance floor way past midnight. The band is weary, but playing along to the budding romance thinking that it had better not end to break the mood, but it is getting temptingly late.
The band’s own tenor saxophonist, Lance Bryant, contributes his own suave vocals on a very appealing ‘I Don’t Want to Learn to Sing the Blues.’ It’s the same old story, but it is song sung and played so well and so sad and so slick, it’s one of the pieces that you want to listen to when you’ve got those blues over and over and over again. On Hammerstein’s ‘Lover Come Back to Me’ and Mercer’s ‘Autumn Leaves,’ vocalist Carla Cook sounds a bit like a very young and innocent Ella Fitzgerald.
It’s all a wonderful throwback. Like Frank Foster writes: "Take it from me, whatever was good once will always be good regardless of passing fads, trends and crossover types mixing of genre." Foster speaks the truth.