Liner notes for STRIKE UP THE BAND CD
by Tom Chesek
Deep in the heart of New Jersey, just 30 miles from Times Square and a shell’s throw from the Atlantic Ocean, there’s a happening little town called Red Bank. A destination town; where folks flock to the many shops, restaurants, bars, parks and theaters that have made this riverfront community one of the cultural hotspots of the Garden State. The place dubbed Hip City also happens to be the provenance of one William “Count” Basie — the globetrotting jazz ambassador, superstar bandleader and Kid from Red Bank whose name adorns a park, a street, and a world-class performing arts stage. It’s at places like the historic Count Basie Theatre (and its spanking-new sister venue, Two River Theater) that you’ll find another Red Bank kid — jazz scholar, conductor, arranger and producer Joe Muccioli — keeping the jazz torch burning, in the borough that birthed the great Basie.
As founder and artistic director of the nonprofit Jazz Arts Project, the man called “Mooch” has put Red Bank on the jazz map with an annual Sinatra Birthday Bash, an all-star Summer Jazz concert series, a “Talkin’ Jazz” Lecture series and a Jazz Arts Academy program for young musicians — all this when he’s not conducting major symphonies and jazz orchestras around the world, or working with everyone from “Q” to comic actor and nightclub entertainer Joe Piscopo for whom Mooch serves as music director and conductor.
Best known for his acclaimed reconstructions of the Gil Evans/ Miles Davis collaborations and other masterworks of classic jazz, Muccioli entered into a new labor of love when he opened up his formidable “little black book” of contacts and put together the first edition of the Red Bank Jazz Orchestra back in ’06. Honoring the big sound and lasting legacy of the Basie bands and other “marvelous organizations,” the RBJO is a veritable Who’s Who of “first call” musicians on the greater New York scene — an all-star roster of pros who regularly perform in top-tier recording sessions, Broadway shows, Jazz festivals and major concerts all over the world.
As a unit, the 17 piece Red Bank Jazz Orchestra has worked with numerous artists including Natalie Cole and the aforementioned Piscopo; not only in Red Bank and the historic Asbury Park Paramount, but at the House of Blues Atlantic City and the legendary ballroom of New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Separately, players like lead trumpeter Bob Milikan, alto/ soprano sax specialist Bruce Williams and plunger-trombone virtuoso Wayne Goodman have played with everyone from Sinatra to Streisand to Springsteen; from Ray Charles and Quincy Jones to Shakira to the actual Count Basie Orchestra.
With Strike Up the Band, the Red Bank Jazz Orchestra makes its recording debut as a unit, with Joe Muccioli at the helm and conducting a baker’s dozen standards of the classic jazz repertoire, from the era of the best-loved big bands and beyond. It’s a mostly instrumental set that pays tribute not just to Basie (the signature “One O’ Clock Jump” and, of course, “The Kid from Red Bank”), but to Duke Ellington (“Such Sweet Thunder,” “The Mooche”), Tommy Dorsey (“I’ll Never Smile Again,” featuring Wayne Goodman on smoothly muted trombone), and artists that range from Art Blakey and Bessie Smith to George Gershwin and Charlie Chaplin.
Even with all that assembled instrumental awesomeness, it would be a shame to leave the singers sitting on the sidelines, so Mooch and the boys have generously set up the mic for next-generation jazz vocal ace Champian Fulton, who scats up a storm on the Sarah Vaughan-Benny Carter essential “After You’ve Gone.” Another young powerhouse, pianist-singer Tony DeSare, delivers a crisply confident take on Frank Loesser’s “I Believe in You” from How to Succeed — and Joe Piscopo, that Saturday Night Live Sinatra turned seriously swingin’ “Vice Chairman of the Board,” puts a playful spin on “Come Fly With Me,” a song custom-crafted for Old Blue Eyes by the great Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn.
Recorded in classic “old school” style at Watermusic Studios in Sinatra’s hometown of Hoboken, NJ, Strike Up the Band harkens back to the energy, enthusiasm and “live in studio” camaraderie that made those vintage Basie sessions so great — while seeming like a refreshing new alternative to the over-processed, auto-tuned, digitally tweaked pop records of today. If you’ve been searching for signs of intelligently swinging life on the jazzband landscape, you’ll surely enjoy this maiden release on the new Hip City Jazz imprint — and if you’re in the market for more where that came from, pay a visit to Red Bank, and tell them Mooch sent you.
STRIKE UP THE BAND – Red Bank Jazz Orchestra, Conducted by Joe Muccioli
RED BANK JAZZ ORCHESTRA:
WOODWINDS: Andy Farber, Alto Sax, Flute, Clarinet; Bruce Williams, Alto Sax, Soprano Sax, Alto Flute, Clarinet; Dan Block, Tenor Sax, Flute, Clarinet; Marc Phaneuf, Tenor Sax, Flute, Clarinet; Kurt Bachur, Bari sax, Flute, English Horn, Clarinet;
TRUMPETS: Bob Milikan; Brian Pareschi; Shawn Edmonds; Irv Grossman; Dave Trigg on Tracks 1,2 & 12 ; Joe Scanella 1,2 & 12,;
TROMBONES: Wayne Goodman, Dion Tucker, Bruce Eidem, Jack Schatz;
PIANO – Steve Ashe;
GUITAR & BANJO – James Chirillo;
VIBRAPHONE: Tony Miceli on Tracks 8 & 12;
BASS – Bill Moring;
DRUMS – Steve Johns, Drums & Bongos; (Mike Nigro on tracks 1,2,7 & 12)