With Doin' the Do, bandleader/arranger David Berger has created an album full of driving big-band music that revives the sound of the swing era while managing to create a very modern style in terms of arrangements, solos, and vocals. Berger is helped by a group of highly gifted band members, including a horn section led by the very talented (if far too obscure) alto saxist Jerry Dodgion, a trombone section headed up by Wayne Goodman (formerly of Wynton Marsalis' Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra), a four-piece trumpet section led by Bob Millikan, vocalist Aria Hendricks (daughter of Jon Hendricks), and a rhythm section composed of Dennis Irwin on bass, Jimmy Madison on drums, and Isaac ben Ayala on piano. With Berger at the helm, the Sultans of Swing do several brilliant arrangements of swing tunes from the '20s, '30s, '40s, and '50s. Berger starts off the album with a hard-swinging take of Nat "King" Cole's 1949 hit "Are You Fer It," featuring a sassy vocal interpretation by singer Hendricks. Berger pays homage to the genius of Duke Ellington with an interesting arrangement of Ellington's piece "Do Nothin' Til You Hear From Me," featuring an orchestration of the piano comping Ellington did for vocalist Milt Grayson at a concert in Paris in 1963. Berger also does a couple of arrangements of Sy Oliver tunes. Oliver, who wrote for Jimmy Lunceford, was famous for writing short vocal trio parts for Lunceford's big band. Here Berger has recreated that vocal trio sound on the Fields & McHugh tune "Exactly Like You," where a vocal group from the trumpet, trombone, and horn sections does a perfectly harmonized vocal part over Ayala's piano accompaniment. Berger also does several of his own original arrangements on Doin' the Do, including the title track and the sixth song on the album, "Miss Thing," which features a hot-blooded interpretation by Hendricks and excellent solos by alto saxist Matt Hong, trombonist Joel Helleny, and trumpet player Brian Pareschi. On "How to Get You Out of My Heart," another Berger original, trumpet player Steven Bernstein solos with a fascinating half-valve technique that harks back to Miles Davis' solo on "So What" and, perhaps more significantly for this album, the technique of Ellington trumpet players such as Rex Stuart and Ray Nance. If one of Berger's intentions with Doin' the Do was to pay tribute to composers like Ellington and Oliver, he has certainly achieved that here. But on Doin' the Do Berger has also established his own sound and arranging style, while never losing the hard-driving swing that made the Ellington, Lunceford, and Basie bands so timeless. At the same time, Berger has furthered the careers of several of the finest jazz musicians anywhere, providing each with a chance to play master arrangements in a tradition that will forever remain an integral part of jazz history.
AllMusic Review by Alex Arcone