George Gee Big Band: Settin’ the Pace

Many labels come to mind for George Gee’s fourth album and first studio session, Settin’ the Pace (GJazz): straightahead, neoswing, dance band-and none are pejorative. Gee can boast a tight, highly responsive, 17-piece unit-four trumpets, four trombones, five saxes and four in the rhythm section-made even more responsive with tenor saxophonist Frank Foster guiding them. Adding to the good news: 11 of the 12 tunes are Foster’s arrangements. Highlights include Lance Bryant’s tenor sax solo on “In a Sentimental Mood,” Joe Cohn’s guitar statements on “Ready Now That You Are GG” and flugelhornist Walt Szymanski’s solo on the same track. Later, Szymanski shows his trumpet chops on “When Your Lover Has Gone,” both in the art of playing pure melody and improvising. As lead trumpeter, his presence is felt throughout the album. Vocalist Carla Cook has three offerings but scores highest with “The Very Thought of You.” It’s the only one in her lower warmer range, and that’s where the Grammy nominee belongs.