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January/February 2008

Michael Berkowitz & The Gene Krupa Orchestra
Thinking of Gene
Sea Breeze

Leaders of ghost bands are literally haunted by past sounds. Fans, steeped in nostalgia, expect to hear Glenn Miller, Count Basie, Tommy Dorsey, etc., come alive with arrangements, and sometimes solos, intact. Don’t count on the leader of today’s Gene Krupa band to resurrect yesterday. Once Michael Berkowitz secured the rights to the Krupa book in 2004, he went his own way, and now that the new/old band has made its recording debut, I like Mike’s way. It’s a highly responsive, 17-piece band, plus singer Annette Sanders, boasting an updated book with occasional nods to its inspiration.

With powerhouse drummer Berkowitz pushing the band, highlights include two way-up showcases: “Wire Brush Stomp” for brush technique; “Lover” for sticks. For the band: a laid-back, tantalizing “Tuxedo Junction” with a fine tenorist who might be Mike Tomaro (credits are conspicuous by their absence); and “Rockin’ Chair” that includes a “thank you” to Roy Eldridge by trumpeter Steve Hawk. Vocalist Sanders is generally wasted, but shines on “Opus One” and particularly on “Thinking of Gene”—mostly wordless, yet provocative through her lips.

Originally published in January/February 2008
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