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June 2006

The Harry Goldson Café Society Orchestra
Let's Dance
Weatherbird

When a small combo re-creates a big band, it’s not necessarily chutzpah if the septet is Harry Goldson’s Café Society Orchestra. It’s a heroic demonstration of how clever voicings using economical means and skillful playing can transform a combo into the magic of a big band. In the process they conjure up the halcyon days of those bands that were twice, almost three times the size of this septet. Which is saying what Goldson does is strictly an aural experience. It’s just not the same seeing seven guys create that illusion. There’s a certain sadness implied there, no? So let’s play Harry’s game and dance. Lock in the metronome of your mind and enjoy the nostalgia of Goodman, Miller, Ellington, Dorsey, Basie, et al, through clarinetist Golden, trumpeter Art Davis, trombonist Scott Bentall and four rhythm players. Through clever arrangements, mostly by Lon Norman, the wizardry of minimalism allows one instrument to suffice for an entire section. It’s put together so ingeniously that the pristine charts seem to come alive—sometimes through the power of suggestion—particularly if you remember the originals.

Originally published in June 2006
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