The Ben Grisafi Big Band

Plays Swing, Sweet and Sentimental

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Making some key sectional changes, especially the reed group, since his last outing, Ben Grisafi's outfit has taken on a mellower, mature sound. There has also been a change in drumming, with Rob Levy replacing the dynamic Al Miller. None of this means there has been any diminution in the band's melodic output. They still swing, they still feature original, creative charts by leader Grisafi, and most of all, they strike that happy balance between the well disciplined and loose which makes the group easy on the ears. Moreover, while the charts set the tone for the melody line, there is room left for individual improvisation, as on "Big Band Broadcast Blues," which gives players an opportunity in the spotlight. Randy Langone on guitar and Ozzie Melendez's trombone take meaningful advantage of the opportunity. But on top of all this, there is a more subtle approach to presenting the music, as if there were a transition from a Les Brown- to a Claude Thornhill-like approach, not that it is featuring French horns. One important constant remains and that's the sumptuous vocals of Denise Richards, who simply raises the bar on such songs as "That's All." A greater emphasis on solos is also a trademark of this release. This modification is heard to excellent effect on the leader's honey tenor sax solo on "Stardust." With this latest release, Grisafi clearly understands that in the day and age when big bands struggle to survive, you can't let your group fall into a stylistic rut and expect to be successful. A gently revised musical front is necessary to keep the audience onboard. That's accomplished with this flawless outing by this band.

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