John Burnett & His Orchestra / John Burnett Swing Orchestra

Down for Double

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After World War II, there were some major changes in the jazz world. Bop became more plentiful than swing, and big bands became much harder to find. That isn't to say that big bands disappeared altogether; jazz's post-swing era gave us the bands of Oliver Nelson, Thad Jones & Mel Lewis, Gil Evans, Charles Mingus, and others. But it is safe to say that since the late '40s, big bands have been the exception rather than the rule. You have to know where to find them, and in Chicago, British expatriate John Burnett's big band has been celebrating the spirit of the Swing Era, which is what he does on Down for Double. This 60-minute CD comes from three different sources: a live appearance at Fitzgerald's in Berwyn, IL (a Chicago suburb) in 2005, a live appearance at Drury Lane in Oakbrook Terrace, IL (another Chicago suburb) in 2010, and a studio session from 2000 (the latter features clarinetist Buddy DeFranco). And in all three settings, Burnett's orchestra fondly recalls the glory days of big bands. Down for Double has a few boppish moments, but the main ingredient is swing, and Burnett salutes the icons of the Swing Era with spirited performances of gems associated with Duke Ellington ("Cotton Tail," "In a Mellow Tone"), Glenn Miller ("In the Mood"), Benny Goodman ("Sing, Sing, Sing"), and Count Basie ("One O'Clock Jump," "The Heat's On," "Wind Machine"). Few surprises occur, but then, Down for Double isn't meant to be an album of surprises. This release is a tribute to a bygone era -- a time in which jazz was very much a part of pop culture and wasn't regarded as music that was strictly for intellectuals. Indeed, "Sing, Sing, Sing," "Cotton Tail," and "In the Mood" were tunes that one heard at high school dances or at the corner bar during WWII; they were as mainstream in their day as Motown and the Beatles were in the '60s and Philadelphia International, disco, and Elton John were in the '70s. And if Down for Double is an exercise in nostalgia, it's certainly a likable one.

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