The best music, in jazz or any other genre, is and should be timeless. To prove the point, the Scott Silbert Big Band celebrates the songs of a bygone era on its debut album, Jump Children, refreshing a number of memorable themes from the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s and underscoring their relevance in an ultra-modern twenty-first century environment. His goal, Silbert writes, was “to represent the fantastic musicianship of the artists [who] originally performed these works,” venerated masters such as Jimmie Lunceford, Duke Ellington, Larry Clinton, Benny Goodman, Louis Jordan, Harry James, Count Basie, Tommy Dorsey and others. Thanks to Silbert’s unerring facsimiles and the diligence and energy of his superb DC-area ensemble, mission accomplished.
There is one brief detour on the colorful trip down memory lane. Silbert, who arranges for the superlative Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, composed and arranged “Tootsie’s Rag,” whose exuberant harmonies and rhythms readily complement the rest of the program. Only one band is represented more than once: the renowned International Sweethearts of Rhythm, by the opening “Jump Children” and the high-spirited “She’s Crazy with the Heat.” Gretchen Midgley (misspelled Midgely twice) sings on “Jump Children” and “11:60 P.M.,” on which trumpeter Joshua Kaufmann sits in for the incomparable Harry James. That number precedes another Swing Era classic, guitarist Freddie Green‘s irrepressible “Down for Double,” written for the Basie orchestra.
Speaking of classics, the album closes with Edgar Sampson‘s well-traveled masterpiece, “Stompin’ at the Savoy,” meticulously transcribed by Silbert (who did the same for every number) and admirably performed by the band whose excellent brass and reeds are led by trumpeter Liesl Whitaker, trombonist Dave Perkel and alto saxophonist Charlie Young. The rhythm section (Tony Nalker, piano; Craig Gildner, guitar; Amy Shook, bass; Ken Kimery, drums) is no less impressive. Several are alumni (as is Silbert) of the US Navy Commodores or other DC-area service bands. Silbert solos on tenor sax and clarinet (five numbers each), and even sings (quite well) on Louis Jordan’s “I Want a Roof (Over My Head).” Besides Silbert and Kaufmann, the soloists are Young, Nalker, Gildner, Kimery, tenor Grant Langford, baritone Leigh Pilzer, trombonist Jen Krupa, trumpeter Chris Walker and even Whitaker who usually limits herself to lead trumpet duties. What is most remarkable is how everyone plays in a “modern” groove without sacrificing the resourcefulness and ardor that epitomized their trailblazing predecessors.
Aside from the songs already mentioned, the playlist includes “Annie Laurie,” “In a Persian Market,” “Jumpin’ Pumpkins,” “Edna,” “Dusk,” “Lullaby in Rhythm,” “Chloe” and “Shipyard Ramble.” Every one of them a winner, as is Jump Children from start to finish. For those who lived through the Swing Era, it’s a treasure trove of warm and unforgettable memories; for those who didn’t, it’s a chance to hear and appreciate some of the songs that helped make it a Golden Age for American music in general and jazz in particular.
Jump Children; Annie Laurie; In a Persian Market; Jumpin’ Punkins; Edna; Tootsie’s Rag; I Want a Roof (Over My Head); Dusk; Lullaby in Rhythm; 11:60 P.M.; Down for Double; Chloe; Shipyard Ramble; She’s Crazy with the Heat; Stompin’ at the Savoy.
Since 1988 Kari-On Productions has helped artists get an even footing in the industry through jazz promotion in the genres of Jazz, World & Latin Jazz through Jazz Radio and Publicity. Why do we do both, because they compliment each other, and we care about fiscal longevity for the artist.
Jazz Journal UK reviews Alexis Cole, Sky Blossom
The New York Sun features The DIVA Jazz Orchestra, DIVA Swings Broadway