The Cheathams' Sweet Baby Blues Band, a five-horn octet that emphasizes Kansas City-style blues with occasional room for a ballad or a standard, is such fun to hear that it is surprising that it has not been more influential. Other than Roomful Of Blues, it is difficult to think of a similar ensemble that, even with a strong vocalist (Jeannie Cheatham), leaves plenty of space for the horns to romp individually and as an ensemble. Too often in blues and r&b, the saxes and brass are confined to repetitive riffing. Such is not the case with this group. On their eighth release for Concord, the Cheathams feature fine solos from Rickey Woodard (on tenor, clarinet and soprano), altoist Louis Taylor, Charles Owens (baritone and bass clarinet), trumpeter Nolan Smith and co-leader Jimmy Cheatham on bass trombone in addition to the pianist-singer. As if that were not enough, trumpeter Snooky Young joins in on three numbers and guest tenor Plas Johnson gets to jam on four others. Highlights include a tenor battle by Plas and Woodard on a tribute to Curtis Peagler ("Mr. C.P."), the interplay between Woodard's clarinet and Owens' bass clarinet during "Low Line Blues" and the high note outbursts of Snooky Young. Jeannie Cheatham is in good voice throughout and this group sounds as spirited and rambunctious as ever. A perfect jazz party band.
AllMusic Review by Scott Yanow