January/February 2008

George Gee & The Jump, Jivin’ Wailers Swing Orchestra
If Dreams Come True

Call it retro swing; call it two-beat; call it corny. Or be honest and call it successful. George Gee, reputedly the only Chinese-American bandleader in the business, keeps his guys working. If they stay at or near home (they’re based in New York City), the book calls for 17 sidemen; when they travel, it becomes a compact, economically feasible, 10-man package. The formula has worked for 27 years, and produced eight albums. Gee, a diminutive bundle of energy who began his career as a bassist, is now out front, adding his personality to the jiving and jumping. This latest collection of jive, jump and wails is locked in to a metronome marking of “moderately fast,” aimed at his dancing fan base. Only one ballad affords a respite: “It Had to Be You,” sung by the smooth stylist Carla Cook. The other dozen tracks, arranged mostly by Walt Szymanski, have the ’30s and ’40s flavor, if not the intensity, of Benny Goodman and Gee’s idol, Count Basie. Among soloists, the most enjoyable are clarinetist Dan Block and trumpeter Szymanski, along with pianist Steve Einerson, who contributes his best solo on an Eddie Sauter line, “All the Cats Join In.”

Originally published in January/February 2008

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