Moonlight Serenade: Big Band Romantic Classics

Frankie Condon

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Moonlight Serenade: Big Band Romantic Classics Review

by Dave Nathan

What separates this album from the many homages to the big-band era is that Frankie Condon and his group didn't ape the arrangements of the band from the 1930s or 1940s that introduced a tune and made it popular. Armed with a large 19-piece orchestra, Condon implants some of his ideas on how these chestnuts should be played, usually giving them a more modern sound without losing the flavor of the originals. Thus, "Sentimental Journey" is played at a slower pace than the famous Les Brown version, and features Scott Young's boppish tenor sax and Steve Bulla's smooth trombone. On oft-recorded "Stardust," Bulla pays tribute to Jack Jenny's solo on the Artie Shaw version, but the voicing and tempo for section playing is more contemporary than Shaw's was in 1940. In addition, Condon is often allotted more than the usual three minutes or so that were available to the leaders in the big-band era, giving him a little more time to develop the music. The result is that Condon manages to keep these classics of the swing era before the public but slightly alters their presentation so as to give them a freshly painted, and much more jazzy, sound than one normally hears on albums of this type. And he does it very well. Recommended for lovers of the big-band sound.

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