Big City Rhythms
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The pairing of premier era-gone-by pianist/crooner Michael Feinstein and the legendary Maynard Ferguson Big Band is such a rousing success that it's surprising the two didn't think of it before. While the set mainly consists of whatever beautiful, offbeat standards Feinstein hasn't yet had the opportunity to record (including the sassy Bobby Troup number "Girl Talk" and the humorous Rodgers & Hart tune "Johnny One Note"), he sums up not only the spirit of this recording but of his whole retro-minded career on the clever original "Swing Is Back in Style." With the 21-piece big band simmering in the background, just waiting to splash in with some playful brass accents, Feinstein chronicles the rock and rap eras and says, essentially, it don't mean a thing if it ain't got that.... While he's always shown talent as a songwriter, his success rises and falls completely on his interpretive style, and here he is in top form from the opening strains of the bold, heavily swinging "Close Your Eyes." Typically on uptempo gems like this, he'll let the band rise as a harmony line, then give it ample time to strut its stuff after the final verse and before the final chorus. Other unique choices are "One Day at a Time," which speaks to the ephemeralness of life (like Gershwin's "Our Love Is Here to Stay," a Feinstein favorite), and "Love Is Nothin' But a Racket." Ferguson mostly leads his explosive ensemble here but occasionally blows solo — and there's nothin' finer than that.
Born: 1956 in Columbus, OH
Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s