This CD came into being as a fundraiser for The Commission Project, which has evolved into a multi-city project that encourages students to contribute to the creation of original music as they work with professional musicians. After an annual fundraiser that involved some 40 musicians, a few of them remained in town to participate in the making of this recording. Trombonist Fred Wesley, known for his work in both jazz and R&B, is the musical director. The rest of the cast, which varies from track to track, includes trumpeter/flügelhornist Marvin Stamm, bassist Keter Betts (who, sadly, died shortly after the sessions ended), drummer Akira Tana, bassist Jay Leonhart, guitarist Bob Sneider, pianist Mike Holober, saxophonist Carl Atkins and drummer Rich Thompson. One can just imagine the fun in the studio as the players worked. Holober's lively arrangement of "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)" produces some of the best solos of the project, while the poignant interpretation of the standard "Body & Soul" is a brilliant showcase for Stamm backed solely by the pianist. Leonhart's heartfelt tribute "Missin' RB Blues" to the late bassist Ray Brown has an overdubbed vocal line that gave its composer fits, while Duke Ellington's "Just Squeeze Me" is a swinging duet by both bassists that Brown would have appreciated. Wesley's swaggering R&B-flavored "Wicked Walk" features Atkins playing some gritty baritone sax, along with choice solos by Stamm, Holober, Sneider and the trombonist himself. For those who can't make it to the annual Swing 'N Jazz fundraising event (which includes concerts, workshops, food and golf) in Rochester, this rewarding CD may provide the encouragement to check it out.
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AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden