A very large orchestra playing arrangements featuring blaring brass and saxophone ensemble work interspersed with an occasional vocal brings to mind the Stan Kenton orchestras of the late '50s and '60s. So does Bert's Blues, on which Nancie Banks' arrangements are played by her 20-piece orchestra. The pattern for the set is established right from the start with ten-and-a-half minutes of the Walter Bishop, Jr. composition, "Those Who Chant." The Banks' arrangement recalls Kenton as Kenny Rampton assumes Maynard Ferguson's role with screaming trumpet and upper register hijinks. In addition to doing most of the arranging, Banks vocalizes on three cuts. Her mellow rendition of "You Go to My Head" is a respite from the orchestral pyrotechnics which, up to that point, have dominated the session. Banks does well with the blues on "Fas' Livin' Blues," receiving banner support from Rampton's toned-down trumpet. Also like Kenton aggregations, the members of the orchestra are very good and get plenty of opportunity to display their musical merchandise. Splendid solos come from tenor men Charles Davis on the title cut "Bert's Blues," and Patience Higgins on "Moontrane." The trombone of former Basie-ite, Clarence Banks stars on "Chasing the Hound." Other soloists of note are Michael Max Fleming on bass, Frank Gordon on trumpet, and Edwin Swanston on piano. Banks' musical aggregation displays a great deal of energy and talent as it romps through over an hour of Kenton-type progressive jazz.
AllMusic Review by Dave Nathan