Album Review: The Weather Is Here, Wish You Were Beautiful from The Jeff Benedict Big Big Band
Album: The Weather is Here, Wish You Were Beautiful
Artist: The Jeff Benedict Big Big Band
Label: Groovy Panda Records
The Jeff Benedict Big Big Band are ringing in 2021 with their second offering The Weather Is Here, Wish You Were Beautiful. Produced by the band’s leader Jeff Benedict, the recording is a lively assortment of original compositions by Benedict interspersed with five of his arrangements of American standards. Benedict builds on the Big Band harmonies of Guy Lombardo and Lawrence Welk and modernizes the format for present generations. He creates a contemporary montage relatable to the vigorous churning and robust surges of Rich Willey’s Boptism Big Band, the One O’Clock Lab Band, and Delfeayo Marsalis and the Uptown Jazz Orchestra.
The recording opens with one of Benedict’s original numbers “Moonscape,” a sizzling arrangement featuring the billowing puffs and swerving doodles of trombonist Paul and tenor saxophonist McKeeJeff Ellwood. Progressing forward, the program changes to a funky groove in Miles Davis’ memorable piece “Nardis,” as Benedict helms the track on alto saxophone, coursing lively dynamics along the turns and crinkles, beading the main theme with fiery crackles.
The familiar motifs of “Someday My Prince Will Come” are visited in “The Fotomat Song,” studded in waltzing samba gyrations through the rhythm section as Paul McKee on trombone and Benedict on soprano sax alternate solos, each groomed with a charismatic flare. The sleek stylizing of baritone saxophonist Charlie Richard and pianist Jeff Hellmer are showcased on the title track as the agile pumping of Jonathan Pintoff on bass and the brisk splashing of Dean Koba on drums power the track’s momentum.
The recording simmers to a lounging tempo on “Armadillo Research,” dotted in sweltering solos from Benedict on alto sax and Paul McKee on trombone. Adding a challenge to the setlist is Irving Berlin’s classic melody “Cheek to Cheek” with the horns syncopating their notes perfectly, playing in stunning synchronicity. A technique often dubbed as “mind meld,” the horns meld into a giant wave of sound. “The Mighty Dollar” takes another turn, sprinkling calypso accents through the harmonic forms while the limber exchanges played out bu the horns through Sandy Megas’s masterfully crafted “Tom And Jerry” produce a sprightly interaction.
Delightful and equally stunning, the music of the Jeff Benedict Big Big Band enthralls audiences as well as professional musicians. Benedict’s vision for his ensemble is ambitious. What he sets to achieve with his band is discernible to listeners. The band’s perfect syncopation demonstrates their keen awareness of surrounding movements and melodic expressions. Their ability to cord together notes that crinkle, crackle, sizzle, swelter, and surge is immeasurable.
The Jeff Benedict Big Big Band are:
Trumpets – Steve Hawk (lead), Kevin Mayse, Brian Bettger, Tom Tallman
Trombones – Paul McKee (lead), Jacques Voyemant, Alex Henderson
Bass Trombone – Jerry Amoury
Saxophones – Jeff Benedict (soprano/alto), Adrian Williams (alto), Ken Foerch (tenor), Jeff Ellwood (tenor), Charlie Richard (baritone)
Guitar – Dave Askren
Piano – Jeff Hellmer
Bass – Jonathan Pintoff
Drums and Percussion – Dean Koba