Saturday, August 24, 2013

New York Voices: Live

Palmetto Records
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: New York Voices Live

Fans categorizing jazz tend to concentrate on the stars of the bands and combos, and the vocalists who worked with such groups. Often overlooked are the vocal groups that have gained fame, either as an attraction on their own, or as part of a big band. Remember Glenn Miller’s Modernaires, and Tommy Dorsey’s Pied Pipers

Such groups were — and are — famed as artists in their own right: Think of the Hi-Lo’s, Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, the Manhattan Transfer and New York Voices. All these groups did things in the jazz genre that hadn’t been done before, and the latter two remain active. This album features New York Voices, with one of the world’s best big bands: the WDR Big Band Cologne.

New York Voices began in 1987, as an Ithaca College alumni group. The first generation was a quintet consisting of two guys and three gals; today it’s a quartet with two guys and two gals. Damon Meader, Peter Eldridge and Kim Nazarian are original members; Lauren Kinhan is the newcomer. From 1989 through 2007, the ensemble released seven albums; this album with the WDR Big Band is their first in almost seven years, and marks their 25th anniversary. 

The 10 tunes here include four beautiful old standards (“Love Me or Leave Me,” “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning,” “Darn That Dream” and “Almost Like Being in Love”), and two by Paul Simon (“Baby Driver” and “I Do It for Your Love”), along with Oliver Nelson and Mark Murphy’s “Stolen Moments” and three originals by members of the quartet.

The arrangements are stunning. Each performer is outstanding as a soloist; their combined efforts, harmonically and rhythmically, are fantastic. As for the WDR Big Band, its reputation as the world’s best steadily working jazz orchestra is absolutely accurate; the orchestrations and soloists are a match for anything I’ve heard in years.

This is a fer-shur Grammy winner, and an album that every jazz fan will adore.

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