|Big Band Lovers|
Dean Pratt and drummer Michael Pratt were stalwarts with the Buddy Rich
Band back in the 60s, and while they have gone on to play other kinds
of jazz over the years, in their heart of hearts they still love the big-band
sound and fury. As Dean says in his liner notes, he is determined to keep
the "great tradition alive," even if it's being played in a
There's lots of real music on BIG BAND, which features such musicians as Wayne Coniglio, Ronnie Matthews, Joe Mosello and Alan Gauvin, plus the arrangements of Michael Abene, Rich Shemaria and Don Piestrup, all vets of the Buddy Rich/Count Basie era. As good as their work is, though, they are topped by the vocalist Robert Gambarini, who sings on four of the ten cuts. Born in Italy into a jazz-loving family, Roberta began singing in her teens, then emigrated to the USA. Dean Pratt discovered her when she competed in the 1998 Thelonius Monk vocal competition and he was struck by her many gifts. "She can swing, has impeccable time, possesses an instrument of lyrical beauty, and scats not only with originality but makes the changes, too," he says.
His praise isn't effusive or unjustified. As evidenced by her work on BIG BAND, Gambarini is a jazz singer to be reckoned with, one of the finest voices to be heard today. Her rendering of Hoagy Carmichael's Skylark, for example, is exquisite--she starts the ballad off slowly, goes a capella, then starts to swing and scat, finishing rousingly with the whole band behind her.
She is equally virtuosic on her other numbers--such as Cup of Life and East of the Sun--inspiring the band to match her note for remarkable note. This is truly big band music at its freshest and best. As for those who refuse to listen to it, all one can say is that it's your loss--a big one.
(Consolidated Artists Productions, 200 Riverside Drive, # 11-D, NY, NY 10025)