Roy Gaines and His Orchestra

Tuxedo Blues

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Known much more as a sideman than a solo musician or bandleader, Roy Gaines made the impressive Tuxedo Blues in his mid-seventies, after more than half-a-century as a recording artist. It comes as close as any album could to bisecting electric blues and big-band jazz, using nearly two-dozen horn players (though not at the same time) in addition to a core rhythm section. Sometimes it's in the ballpark of B.B. King and Bobby "Blue" Bland's jazziest, more swinging material, but it's more indebted to big-band sounds than either of those legends are. As a singer and arranger, Gaines puts the accent on suave elegance, mixing originals with tunes popularized by the likes of Nat King Cole and Louis Jordan. "Route 66," also covered here, is perhaps an unimaginative selection considering how often it's been interpreted. As compensation, the instrumental cover of Michael Jackson's "Rock with You" is easily the album's most unconventional effort. The songs and vocals are more amiable than penetrating -- he's certainly less ruffled by "Rats in My Kitchen" than most players would be -- but it's a solid collection, impeccably constructed and performed without getting overly slick.

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