Art Lillard’s Heavenly Band: Reasons to Be Thankful

“Heavenly” is a strange way to describe one’s band; one might expect a large harp section and ethereal music. Well, Lillard’s aggregations fail to meet those otherworldly expectations. Check out the first cut, “Bluez Organ Man”: It’s very down to earth, even sensual in some aspects. And what about “The Fast Track?” Isn’t altoist Bob Mover playing a hard-bop solo, following a Basielike unison line? Heavenly is a misnomer.

Most of the arranging is by Mark McCarron and 12 of the 13 tunes are by Lillard, who also contributed some charts. But the songs are the weakest link in an otherwise pleasant, jazz-tinged presentation that finds instrumentalists given many opportunities to stretch out. Among the best solo statements: trumpeter Erik Jekabson on “Finding Our Own Way,” flutist Mauricio Smith and soprano saxophonist Jay Collins on “Dreamscape,” trumpeter Justin Mullens on “Justice Wating” and trombonist Michael Boschen on the title tune.