The drumming son of pianist Ed Metz, Ed Metz, Jr. plays music that was interpreted by early swing and big-band drummer Dave Tough, a stalwart with the bands of Red Nichols, Claude Thornhill, the Dorseys, Artie Shaw, and Woody Herman. While Metz, 41, is no doubt an engaging, literate, standout drummer, he's picked a backup band truly capable of fueling his swinging fire: Trumpeter Randy Sandke, trombonist John Allred, tenor saxophonist Harry Allen, clarinetist Allan Vaché, pianist Johnny Varro, and bassist Phil Flanigan take this music to heart and swing their collective butt off.
This CD is neatly programmed into four sections. The first four pieces are culled from Tough's associations with bands in the '20s. "Smiles" is a good, hard swinger saturated with counterpoint (as are many of these tunes). The joy of this call-and-response approach is infectious, as is evident on the head of "It All Belongs to Me." Vaché, Allred, Sandke, and Allen each leads his own melody line for "Moanin' Low," while Sandke and Varro stand out as Metz trades fours on a rousing "Waiting at the End of the Road." The next five pieces are from the Dorsey era. The delicate swing of "Beale Street Blues" gets deeper into royal hues as it goes along; "It's Been So Long" is a real fine swinger, with the horns inspiring a rippling drum solo; "Sophisticated Swing" is a feature for young Allen in an Ellington-type motif; "At the Codfish Ball" has more interplay on the head, and solos by all the participants; the ballad blues "Why Begin Again?" (which is probably closest to the Tommy Dorsey style), showcases Allred's trombone. In the third section of the program, Benny Goodman is feted by the always right-on Vaché on the easy swinger "I Hadn't Anyone 'Til You." Allen and Varro are in an upbeat mood for the classic "Lover, Come Back to Me," and Vaché's Artie Shaw inflections fire up the ripsnorting Metz on "Hindustan." The sole unison melody of the date, "Not Too Tough" comes from the Herman book and is a simple, enjoyable number charted by Allred. "Tough Sledding," written by Metz Jr. and his father, is an original blues swing with plenty of holes for drum fills. Though led by a drummer, this session is not obviously a drummer's date, which is a tribute to the importance that Tough placed on being a team player. Metz Jr. and crew have done Dave Tough proud with this fine date.