Alex Donner

White Tie

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Alex Donner has been putting together big bands and other groups for entertainment at galas, balls, and other business client events for more than 15 years. Donner also had some success with a cabaret show, New York, My Hometown. Building on these successes, he has recruited some of New York's top session and jazz players for this his debut album. With the presence of such stalwarts as Frank Wess, Ronnie Cuber, Jay Leonhart, and Jerry Dodgion among others, it's an all-star group. But its main purpose is to serve as the backdrop for Donner's strong, harmonious baritone voice, which he applies with vigor to a list of standards. On string-laden cuts such as "A House Is Not a Home," the rest of the band is more or less suppressed. But where the strings are set aside, the band lets loose on some explosive tracks with good ensemble playing, including "Old Friends," "Don't Cha Go Way Mad," and "Loch Lomond," which benefit from arrangements by Ron Aprea, Sr., Peter Sokolow, and Wally Besser. There are also some notable solos along the way by trumpeter Glenn Drewes, Scott Whitfield on trombone, Jack Wilkins on guitar, and the inestimable Frank Wess, who contributes a tenor sax solo on "Somebody Loves Me." But when the strings are included, matters take a different course with the band taking a back seat to the singer on such cuts as "A House Is Not a Home." Fortunately for all concerned, the swingers outnumber the syrupy ballads, making this a very interesting and entertaining album. Recommended.

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