Skitch Henderson

Swinging with Strings

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Although he was the first bandleader on the original Tonight Show orchestra (when Steve Allen was its host) and founder of the New York Pops and also a frequent guest conductor, this is Skitch Henderson's first recording as a pianist in quite some time. Many of the lightly swinging arrangements feature a quartet of fiddlers (Darol Anger, Glenn Basham, Sara Caswell, and Matt Glaser) in addition to the outstanding rhythm section of guitarists Bucky Pizzarelli and Gene Bertoncini, vibraphonist Peter Appleyard, drummer Joe Ascione, and bassist Nikki Parrott. In fact, this session could very well be compared to a typical jazz date led by Steve Allen; the leader doesn't take a lot of solos himself and the charts are mostly brief and to-the-point, in no danger of taking one chorus too many. There's a fair share of standards from the swing era, including "Oh, Lady Be Good!" and "C-Jam Blues," as well as a bit of campiness, such as "Volga Boatman." Veterans Bertoncini and Pizzarelli particularly stand out with their well-crafted guitar solos, though Henderson finally does get around to featuring himself as a solo pianist on the lovely ballads "If There Is Someone Lovelier Than You" and "I Could Have Danced All Night." While this is an enjoyable release, one can't help imagining that it might have swung a little harder had only one violinist been utilized instead of four, although that obviously would have changed the overall concept.

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