Swing Makes You Happy!, the latest album from the George Gee Swing Orchestra, lives up to its title. Not only does it take those of us of a certain age happily back to a time filled with great music and fond memories, it looks to take that music and run with it into the new century. In his section of the liner notes, leader Gee points out that he and trombonist/musical director David Gibson have a common approach to the swing aesthetic. “David and I are truly kindred spirits who agree that swing music is a living, growing, and evolving art form.”
Working with a tight nine-piece orchestra, complete with the traditional male and female vocalist, he runs through a 19-song set of Gibson arrangements of some of his own original compositions mixed in with a selection of tried and true standards. Hilary Gardner does vocals on “Sweet Pumpkin,” No Moon at All,” “That’s No Joke,” and “You Say You Care.” John Dokes sings on “I’d Rather Drink Muddy Water,” “Baby Won’t You Please Come Home,” “Evenin,’” and a memorable “Nature Boy.” They duet on “If I Were a Bell.”
Truth be told, while the vocals are fine, it is the dynamic instrumental prowess of the band that gets me smiling. Tunes like “Lindyhopper’s Delight,” with trumpet solo work from Freddie Hendrix, Michael Hashim on tenor sax, Ed Pazant on alto sax, and Gibson on the ‘bone, are almost three minutes of perfection—short but jumping. But then you get a tune like Herbie Hancock’s “A Tribute to Someone,” and it’s clear that this is a band just as comfortable with extending the vibe and working it for all its worth. Hendrix is once again in the solo spotlight.
The set opens with Gibson’s mid-tempo swinger featuring extended solo work from the composer, Hendrix, and especially Pazant. A jumping muted “Blues Minor” features solo work from the usual suspects and additionally pianist Steve Einerson and trumpeter Andy Gravish.
All in all, Swing Makes You Happy! deserves that exclamation point in the title.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00OM6YX9W]