16 Men & a Chick Singer Swingin'
Just 16 to one? Hardly fair-for the band. Vocalist Roberta Gambarini nearly steals the session. No easy task considering the brothers Pratt front one of jazzdom's hardest-swinging bands in captivity, rich with soloists whose ideas explode, even at Mach-3.
"Big Bad Basie" is highlighted by pianist Ronnie Mathews, whose dozen choruses are a study in perpetual motion, with fine work by Dean Pratt on muted trumpet; bro Michael on drums and an exciting tenor duel between Mike Karn and Willie Williams. Bassist Chip Jackson and baritonist Dave Schumacher solo expertly on "Old World New Imports," as does bass trombonist Wayne Coniglio on "Falling in Love With Love." The closing screech battle between trumpeter Joe Mosello and trombonist Scott Whitfield on "Waterjug" also features lead alto Alan Gauvin stamping his expertise on sax solis. Talk about expertise-Gambarini, who seems to be a distillation of Anita O'Day and Sarah Vaughan, can handle ballads and uptempo scat with equal ease. Her intonation is flawless, her phrasing instinctively swings, her trill is like a musical dimple and she obviously hears changes. She's the most sensational Italian import since Sophia Loren.