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July/August 2000

Doc Severinsen and his Big Band
Swingin' the Blues
Azica Records

If it's difficult to avoid a sense of cynicism regarding this studioman outing, it's only because Severinsen's highly polished product is too superficial, glitzy and redolent of 1960s Las Vegas show bands to be taken seriously as a jazz recording. Without question, the charts by former Tonight Show tenorman/straw boss Tommy Newsom, as well as those by altoman John Barnbridge, are right on target in the latter day Basie groove they aim for, but most of the solo playing, even by such seasoned vets as Bill Perkins, Ernie Watts, Ross Tompkins and Conte Condoli, fails to reveal any more inventiveness or enthusiasm than would be found on any other workaday log entry recording session.
Gospel-based pop singer Barbara Morrison, drummer Ed Shaughnessy, and tenormen Phil Feather and Doug Webb are also heard from on some of the disc's 14 tracks, but it is Severinsen's playing, with its roots in Harry James, that carries most of the interest. Especially notable are his tribute to Armstrong on "West End Blues" and his generosity in allocating a featured solo spot to longtime sectionmate Snooky Young on the closer, a swinging gospel pop called "The Supreme Sacrifice" that also showcases Watts and trombonist Mike Daigeau.

Originally published in July/August 2000
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