The title of this album is only half right. Chad Rager's Ohio-based aggregation may be modern, but it isn't big. There are only seven players, with one more added for "Chicklets" which keeps it out of the big-band category, even though on occasions it sounds as if some ringers have been added. Rager's Louis Bellson-influenced drums are the engine that propels and drives the band down a road of progressive, contemporary arrangements that combine ingredients of jazz, swing, and rock. Where Rager is the catapult, Chris Karlic's baritone sax and Kurt Felgamacher's electric bass are the ammunition that feeds the musical cannon. A bari sax in the lead gives the band a unique sound. "Squib Cakes" exposes Ragers's rock roots with licks provided by Brooke Hopkins' keyboards, making this the wildest ride on the album. There are benefits to a smaller than usual "big band" as there is little conflict in handing out solo time with plenty for everybody. Karlic's ever present baritone is especially rough, ready, and guttural on Sammy Nestico's "The Heats On." Rager takes a my-hands-are-so-fast-you-can-hardly-see-them solo on "St. Bernard," dedicated to a major influence on the drummer, tap dancer Steve Condos. This track is also the vehicle for an imaginative solo by Steve Enos. "Smile" is an opportunity for everyone to relax with a traditional big-band swing arrangement with the plunger-muted trombone of Pat Haleran taking the lead. This live performance creates an infectious mood of excitement and enthusiasm with the audience. Nonetheless, more needs to be heard from this group before a definitive conclusion on their capabilities can be made. But if this album is any indication, the outlook is promising.
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AllMusic Review by Dave Nathan