As of 2006, Art Lillard's Heavenly Orchestra had been together for 18 years, although the local big band is little known outside of New York. Two aspects are particularly unusual about this orchestra's CD. Rather than playing standards like most swing-oriented big bands, all of the songs are originals by drummer-leader Art Lillard, who also arranged all of the pieces in a style reminiscent at times of both Count Basie and Thad Jones. In addition, four vocalists make appearances on six of the numbers yet do not dominate the music; Mary Foster Conklin is featured the most. Best known among the sidemen are veteran altoist Bob Mover and pianists Mike Longo and Arturo O'Farrill, but it is the more obscure players who generally take solo honors. The music overall is happy and swinging with well-played yet loose ensembles and a joyous group sound. Despite the lack of name recognition in both personnel and repertoire, Reasons to Be Thankful is easily recommended to fans of swinging big bands.
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AllMusic Review by Scott Yanow