Wednesday, June 06, 2007

George Gee Wailers

George Gee and the Jump, Jivin’ Wailers Swing Orchestra
Music director and arranger Walt Szmanski
If Dreams Come True

Jazz was the hit parade music of the big band era that got dancers on their feet. It is that swinging spirit that George Gee looks to channel with his big band at the Swing 46 Jazz & Supper Club, and with his new slimmed down jump-swing Wailers outfit debuting on If Dreams Come True.

Thanks to the relentlessly upbeat arrangements of Walt Szmanski, the results are certainly enjoyable. Gee, a leader evidently in the Jimmie Lunceford tradition, has wisely selected some lesser played swing standards. Lionel Hampton’s holiday cheer, “Gin For Xmas,” is a good example, featuring the arranger’s trumpet and the sax section of Mark Gross, Michael Hashim, and Alex Harding to good effect.

As a dance band, Gee’s Wailers blend swank and swing on the “Puttin’ On the Ritz,” aided by guest Dan Block’s clarinet. Gee has assembled a top-notch band, including Marcus McLaurine, Clark Terry’s longtime bassist, who also gets a short but enjoyable solo on the Irving Berlin standard.

The undeniable highlight is actually the slowest number on If Dreams. Carla Cook (a great vocalist not to be confused with Carla White as a earlier version may well have) gives a caressing rendition of “It Had to Be You,” showing her voice to be in beautiful form. There are also vocal contributions in a sort of Jimmy Rushing-style by John Dokes on “Sent for You Yesterday” and Szmanski on “Lulu’s Back in Town” that are appropriate to the project, but are not as memorable.

While not transcendent, If Dreams is about enjoying music. The tunes and solos are short, but the vibe is good. It’s a nice swing CD for parties, and has more nutritional value than the phony jiving swings bands of recent years past.