by Anne Carlini
| Title – Light at The End of The Tunnel
Artist – Angela O’Neill and the Outrageous 8
For those of you not in the know, Angela O’Neill, a spirited singer who always swings, formed the Outrageous 8 in 2015.Their debut recording was Live At The VFW and, during the same period when they recorded their Home For The Holidays CD, they documented the music for his brand new album, Light At The End of The Tunnel.
Indeed, Angela O’Neill was originally an oboe player before falling in love with big band jazz, switching her focus to singing and founding the Outrageous 8.
The title of this new release has a definite meaning for the music was recorded in singer Al Timss’ backyard (with social distancing) on two hot summer days in 2021 during the height of the COVID pandemic.
The music and the vaccine were the lights that allowed the performers to feel optimistic about the future.
The results are surprisingly well recorded and consistently joyful. While the band is an octet, the arrangements of trombonist Harry Smallenburg (with two by pianist Rocky Davis and one from Dan West) make the ensembles sound like a big band.
1. I’ve Grown Accustomed to His Face (2:35)
This beautifully crafted new album opens on the lusciously cultured, and even danceable I’ve Grown Accustomed To His Face and an assertive Cry Me A River, and backs those up seamlessly with the vibrant, yet sultry gossamer of Come Rain or Come Shine, the uptempo I’m Gonna Live Till I Die (featuring Al Timss) and then a foot-tapping, jazz waltz instrumental in the form of Now and Again is brought forth.
Next up is Angela O’Neill’s touchingly heartfelt performance of New York Minute, which is now known to be a tribute to the many who did not make it through the pandemic, particularly two friends of the band (Mary Iannicchieri and Leslie Carol Warren), and that is itself followed by On A Clear Day (which features Bill A. Jones), a rhythmically infectious Hallelujah I Love Him So, the album rounding out with the addition of Jackie Gibson on the bossa nova-flavored It Might As Well Be Spring, coming to a close on a bluesy When The Sun Comes Out.
The Outrageous 8 is comprised of top studio musicians who have a real feeling for swinging jazz and have quite a range of experience.
Tenor-saxophonist Sam Morgan (the band’s musical director) is joined in the saxophone section by the versatile altoist Ron Cyger and baritonist Richard Walker (a veteran of many big bands). Trumpeter Paul Litteral worked with quite a few major names including the Rolling Stones, John Mayall, Keb’Mo’ and Debbie Harry.
Trombonist-arranger Harry Smallberg has performed with many top big bands (including those led by Kim Richmond and Roger Neumann) and doubles on the vibraphone. Pianist-arranger Rocky Davis has composed quite a few scores for television and films and worked as musical director for Dionne Warwick.
The band’s regular bassist Phil Romo is a greatly in-demand teacher. Bill Bodine, who produced the project, subbed for Romo and has played with such notables as Van Morrison, Joan Armatrading, Cher, Hampton Hawes and Sergio Mendez just to name a few. Drummer Tony Pia has worked with Pepper Adams, Mose Allison, Frank Sinatra Jr, Maynard Ferguson and the Doobie Brothers.